Monday, February 13, 2012

Chef Sam Choy - Hawaii's Celebrity Chef

This is the first of what I hope will become a regular feature here at - interviews with island chefs and/or those who work daily with island food. I know that most of us are home cooks, but it doesn't hurt to hear how the pros do it, right?

Chef Choy grilling ahi
To kick things off, it's an honour to present my recent interview with Chef Sam Choy.

Chef Choy is a James Beard award winner (the restaurant version of the Oscars), a prolific cookbook writer, and a champion for Hawaiian Heritage Cooking. (Heritage cooking is cooking traditional foods, those that evoke memories of special people and special times. It is 'remembering through food'. Sounds a lot like what we are doing here at, nay?). 

Chef Choy has competed on Iron Chef America, and appeared in Ready..Set..Cook! and his own cooking show 'Sam Choy's Kitchen'. He creates menus for American Airlines and even has his own signature food and coffee range.

Actually, Chef Choy doesn't know it, but he was one of the original inspirations for my food blog through his book Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen, without which I would not be writing recipes for you guys today. So it's fitting that he is our first ever chef guest here at

Chef Choy, thanks for being so generous with your time.

You've been doing true Hawaiian Heritage Cooking for some decades now. What trends have you seen over the years? What would you like to see in the future?
The trends that I have seen over the years went from traditional, Nouvelle, Fusion cooking, Heritage even fast food. In the future, I would like to see more sustainable cooking.

What was your vision for the cuisine at your restaurant Kai Lanai?
My vision for the cuisine at my Kai Lanai restaurant is sustainable cooking with local Island Heritage; just a combination that would entice anyone’s palate.

I was salivating just reading over the menu. What dishes do you highly recommend for first time visitors?
I would suggest the Noodlemania made with fresh vegetables and chicken or beef along with chowmein noodles, or any of our fresh island fish cooked to your preference, or our salads.

Can you give us your impression of Samoa and Samoan food?
Samoa is the land of the “happy people” and the food is very unique and good. Being born and raised in Laie, we always ate Samoan food; puligi, fa'ausi, sapasui, etc.

What ingredient(s) could you not live without?
I think I could not live without mayonnaise because you can do a lot of different things with it.

What's your favourite local/regional dish?
My favorite local dish would be poke.

Do you have one piece of advice for my readers who want to make great-tasting island food at home?
Always start with fresh ingredients and don’t be afraid to do different things with your cooking.

Many thanks to Chef Choy and his wife Carol for sharing their thoughts.

If you're in Hawai'i, please check out Sam Choy's Kai Lanai and grab some Noodlemania. And if you would like to try out some of Sam's flavoursome recipes at home, pick up one of his cookbooks from Amazon.

[Are there any chefs/cooks you would like to see featured here? Make your suggestions and I'll see what I can do.]

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