Chef, Tell us a little about you growing up in Hawaii.
Well its a long story really- born and raised in the northern end of Polynesia to a local family thats involved in aspects of agriculture and culinary. My Maternal Grandfather was a politico of his day, newspaper reporter and journalist.
Do you remember your grandfather?
I do remember him. But I was quite young when he passed.
how did The beach in front of the house here get named after your grandfather?
The beach is named for Charley Young, often places are named for the people that lived there or events… like White Rock. Charley Young Beach is a place where Charley Young built his house and raised his family. And he was involved in the community particularly radio and newspaper so he was well known in the community. They also named a bridge after him for his contribution to improve public safety, there was an old dilapidated bridge that kept washing out and putting peoples lives at risk so he rattled enough cages to get the county to put in a new bridge and they dedicated it to him and that would be in the early 60’s I believe. (Pause) I should mention he was a corpulent man…
Was he a Chef too?
He was not, that I know of but he had an appetite for the finer things in life and he was very gregarious and very social and a very smart man.
What about his wife?
Oh, Betty, she was an icon.
We've heard stories about her Aloha and hospitality. Tell us about that.
She was the queen of Charley Young Beach for sure. She was known to pull random strangers up off the beach and feed them and clothe them and house them. Back in those days there weren't a lot of people here, oh yeah, there were some oscillations and in the 1940’s there was of course the war and then at the end of the war people left and went back to where they came from so it was in the 50’s a lot quieter. Granny Betty Young was an icon and quite a special lady, whiskey drinking, foul mouthed and ill tempered at times but love ya, heart of gold, loved people….
Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about?
Sure. That’ll be a couple of them actually, one is from my Puerto Rican Grandmother, Mama Lucy, which is fried aku and arroz con gandules (rice with gandules beans- pigeon peas). Aku is a fish, tuna/mackerel family and it was cooked in old lard thats been on that stove for god knows how long in a crusty old cast iron skillet and would fry the fish in there and for breakfast would fry some spam in there…the oil never changed... it was really ‘seasoned’. And then there's my Grandmother Betty and the one that really sticks out in my mind is Swiss Steak which is an interesting dish. Having years in culinary I attempted to use all my skills that I could bring to bear trying to recreate her Swiss Steak but that was exactly the antithesis of the formula. What does a drunk old lady do in the middle of the afternoon? She takes a nap. Swiss Steak has 4 ingredients, that’s it! She puts it on the stove and goes to sleep.
What kinds of ethnic food do you think are underrated right now?
I don’t think ethnic foods are as underrated as they used to be- or poo-pooed or sneered at, as a matter of fact most Chefs now these days are using their ethnic background and there are several that come out of hawaii, the latest of course is Sheldon from Top Chef he’s got a Philipino backround in Hawaii. He brings these flavors and concepts which strangely enough, a lot of them come from Europe because the Philippines of course, are a colony of Spain, so a lot of them have Spanish influences from the 16th centuries onward.
When did you start cooking? how did you become interested in becoming a chef?
In Polynesia, well, in many cultures men predominately cook and growing up here, of course, the men in my family always cooked. The women did too. I think I was 9 or 10 years old when I did my first 6 course Chinese dinner- for clients!
Who arranged for that?
I did!. They were friends of my mothers and I was reading 1001 Chinese Recipes, which I still have, so I chose 6 dishes from that and made them at their house on their stove.
Who were some of your mentors? and what kind of establishments did you work in?
Well as for establishments I worked in a bunch of places ranging from little Mom and Pop restaurants with kitchens where two people could barely turn around- to huge hotels and I have to say I prefer the previous to the latter. Ahmmm, most of the Chefs I’ve worked with are lunatics in some regard. My father of course is a fantastic Chef, I hope to be as good as he is when I’m his age. As far as my mentors it’ll have to be my father, and another fella by the name of Tyrone Camel, who i recently came in contact with after decades, and then there's Tom Dillon. I think those are the three Chefs that I can look back and say really influenced my perception of food.
What type of chef are you?
I think the term Chef is an interesting word, I cook and I love to feed people. Hospitality as my grandmother had it, she gave to me. My wife always says it is a gift. So what type of Chef am I? Well, I guess Cab Calloway has the best quote “Everybody eats when they come to my house”, I’m that kind of Chef…,cook.
Sample Menu ~Dinner~
Cocktails, Wine & Bar Service
Mixed Kula Greens & Papaya Seed Vinaigrette
Ahi Sashimi & Sesame Dip
Grilled Island Asparagus w/ Lemon & Capers
Jasmine Rice Pilaf w/ Sweet Peas and Garlic
Rice Noodle & Wok Seared Asian Vegetable
Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi w/ Ginger & Lime Beurre Blanc
Warm Honey-Drizzled Feta w/ Pine Nuts, Orange & Mint