Destinations / GO
OAHU’S NEXT WAVE of maverick chefs, finding inspiration in a rich culinary heritage and an abundance of surf-to-table seafood and just-picked pro-
duce, are turning Honolulu into the next
The pig, poi and pineapple luau long synon-
ymous with the Hawaiian Islands is certainly
fun, but did leave some room for innovation.
And 25 years ago that’s just what happened
when a band of 12 chefs created Hawaii
Regional Cuisine — the beginning of one of the
most exciting culinary scenes in the country.
These stellar chefs freely mixed local
ingredients with cooking styles from all
the immigrant cultures. It was as if they
took the flavors and cooking traditions
from the Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos,
Thai, Vietnamese, Koreans, Portuguese,
Polynesians, French and Italians and threw
them into a giant pot.
These culinary champions, among them
Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi and George
Mavrothalassitis, began building relationships with local farmers, fishermen and
aquaculturists, promising they would buy
Hawaiian if the farmers produced more
variety and promised top quality. The cooks
have since gone on to enormously successful careers — books, TV shows and critical
acclaim, including prestigious James Beard
Foundation awards — and their Oahu restaurants continue to get rave reviews, also
providing the training ground for the next
generation of chefs.
Yamaguchi and Wong chair the annual
Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, where local
and international celebrity chefs celebrate
the islands’ bounty with signature dishes containing grown-in-Hawaii ingredients. In its
sixth year, the festival takes place over three
weekends in October on multiple islands and
features more than 100 chefs, vintners and
distillers from around the world.
Today, new farm-to-fork pioneers are
adding twists to an ever-evolving cuisine
with more local flavors and more traditional
Hawaiian foods than ever before. They’ve
amped up their commitment to sustainabil-
ity, to local farmers, fishers and ranchers and
almost-forgotten ingredients. They’re cooking
(dumplings of the day); price varies. Breakfast
Bibimbap with bacon, Portuguese sausage,
heritage ham, kimchi, soy-mirin shiitake
mushrooms, ong choy, sesame carrots, bean
sprouts and sunny-side-up egg, served over
crispy garlic rice in a hot skillet; $15.
INSIDER TIPS Walk-ins only, worth the wait.
✱ 1145c 12th Avenue, 808.732.8920,
The Pig & The Lady is chef Andrew Le’s talk-
of-the-town Chinatown restaurant.
WH Y POPULAR Born in Honolulu to
Vietnamese parents, Le serves updates of his
mother’s Vietnamese street food recipes. He
attended the Culinary Institute of America in
New York, was 2014 James Beard Foundation
fare that’s more accessible in presentation and
price and giving food lovers yet another rea-
son to visit Honolulu.
Koko Head Cafe, a brunch-all-day eatery, is
tucked away in the eclectic Waikiki-adjacent
neighborhood of Kaimuki.
WHY POPULAR Hipsters love chef Lee Anne
Wong’s take on Hawaiian home cooking.
A New Yorker, she trained at the French
Culinary Institute; worked in kitchens all
over the world; garnered TV cred on the Food
Network, the Cooking Channel, Bravo’s Top
Chef and its spin-off Top Chef Masters; and
wrote a cookbook, Dumplings All Day Wong.
WHAT TO ORDER Kimchi bacon ched-
dar scones; $5. Dumplings All Day Wong