Call it a hana hou or encore. Twenty five years after a dozen Island chefs put the 50th State on the foodie map, Hawaii is in the midst of a modern revival led by farm-focused chefs bringing the locavore movement to the masses.
The new breed of chefs redefines Hawaii’s culinary scene like Hawaii Regional Cuisine pioneers before them, with renewed focus on traditional Hawaiian food, sustainability, and locally sourced dishes. From the legends to the young guns, here’s your guide to the hottest chefs shaping Modern Hawaii cuisine.
Roy’s, Eating House 1849, Roy’s Beach House
For many, Roy Yamaguchi represents Hawaii cuisine. He’s been a fixture in the Hawaii culinary scene in the 28 years since opening his flagship Roy’s Restaurant in Hawaii Kai. A menu staple that best reflects Roy’s way is his Misoyaki butterfish. It starts with fresh fish caught in the Islands and incorporates a French-inspired wasabi-ginger butter sauce with Thai black rice.
Hawaii’s first James Beard Award winner is as busy as ever with four new restaurants opening on Oahu, including his first beachfront space at Turtle Bay Resort, and role as co-founder of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.
Alan Wong, Pineapple Room
Bon Appétit has recognized Alan Wong as the “Master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.” He excels marrying ethnic-cooking styles with island-grown ingredients to create local dishes with a contemporary twist.
The James Beard Award Winner and Hawaii Food & Wine Festival co-founder is inspired by flavors he tastes when traveling. Wong approaches signature dishes such as Ginger-crusted Onaga with the passion of a photographer and execution of an engineer.
Rounding out the legendary trio is George Mavrothalassitis, a French born Hawaii transplant and HRC original with an awards list as long as his last name. Recently named one of the 40 Best U.S. restaurants by Gayot, “Chef Mavro” is worth the trip to Hawaii to experience the Chef’s menu and wine pairings.
Just a sampling of the standouts- Island octopus poached in Burgundy wine and Keahole “lobster à la française.” Ooh la la!
Town, Mud Hen Water, Kaimuki Superette, Mahina & Sun’s
With a mantra of “local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always,” Ed Kenney is the tattoo-sleeved poster child for the farm to fork movement. The Oahu native’s dishes hit the sweet spot with the right balance of Hawaiian and European influences.
Kenney showcases traditional Hawaiian canoe crops like kalo and ‘ulu on his menus. All of his creations are served up with deceptively simple presentation that’s simply ʻono, the Hawaiian word for delicious! Kenney’s star is rising as he reaches new audiences as the host of the hit PBS series Family Ingredients.
Lee Anne Wong
Koko Head Café
Lee Anne Wong takes comfort food to new heights with unexpected flavor combinations at Koko Head Café. The Top Chef season one fan favorite turns ordinary fare into something extraordinary.
The native New Yorker’s Island style brunch house features sweets worthy of “ a cheat meal” like Elvis’s Revenge. It’s as decadent as it sounds. Or you can stick with “Dumplings All Day Wong.” Either way, you can’t go wrong.
The Pig & The Lady
Andrew Le’s pop-up became so popular at farmers markets that he opened a restaurant in Chinatown. The Pig & The Lady is a darling of fickle foodies and media, with contemporary food built on Vietnamese flavors inspired by his Mom, “The Lady.”
Customers rave about the P & L Pho, a 12-hour roasted brisket, sirloin, marrow fat, fresh ginger, tokyo negi, sawtooth herb, chili vinegar, fresh rice noodles.
MISSION Social Hall & Café
More than any other Hawaii Chef, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi pours his passion for Hawaii into the food he creates. It’s a deep connection to the land and local ingredients that he credits to years of dancing hula.
Gooch makes throwback dishes that combine eating and education at Mission Social Hall & Café. A menu favorite is a luau stew that Noguchi learned how to make from an uncle.
MW Restaurant, Artizen by MW
When it comes to pastries, Michelle Karr-Ueoka is in a league of her own. This James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee honed her culinary skills in Thomas Keller’s kitchens.
Karr-Ueoka enjoys using flavors of the Islands in innovative combinations like a Tropical Fruit Creamsicle “Brulée” or Kula Strawbery Shave Ice.
Another Thomas Keller alum is on the rise shaping Modern Hawaii cuisine with his highly anticipated arrival Senia. Kajioka sources from local farmers and artisans to create a menu that ranges from casual and classic dishes to a 12-course experience with caviar or truffles.
With a deep pool of culinary talent, Hawaii is riding a wave as high as its famous North shore breaks.