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Food & Dining // Food & Beverage Focus
Jo McGarry

Bryan Ashlock

Jo McGarry photo

Food and Beverage Director
Turtle Bay Resort and Spa

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Rosieres-en-Haye. It’s about 200 miles from Paris, but my family moved a great deal as my dad was in the Air Force. He came to Hawaii and married my mother, who was born and raised in Hawaii. We lived in so many different places. When my dad retired, we came back to Hawaii. I’ve been here since 1969.

Did you go to culinary school here? Yes, I graduated from Kapiolani Community College and furthered my training in Japan and Hong Kong before joining Starwood Hotels and moving through its properties.

What started your passion for cooking? When I was 15, I’d watch my mom and dad come home from work and start to get dinner ready for us five kids. I felt so sorry for my mother, as she had no time to rest. So I started setting the table and preparing meals – just simple stuff. But my parents were so surprised and so happy that they had time to relax after work that I started to do more.

I really believe it when you say you cook to make people happy … that’s a great story. Yes, I really do enjoy everything about cooking for people. My first job was as a currency clerk at First Hawaiian Bank – I counted money all day long. It drove me crazy …

Do you cook at home? Yes. When my kids were growing up, I always made good food for them … like they were eating in a restaurant. Their friends would come over and ask, ‘Do you always eat like this?’ (laughs).

Where do you like to eat out? Mom-and-pop Japanese restaurants are a big favorite of mine. Any authentic Japanese food is good with me.

Favorite foods to cook with? I usually keep some sort of seafood in the fridge or the freezer. And recently I’ve been growing ghost peppers – I bought some from a grower at Kailua Farmers Market and germinated the seeds. They are fabulous. I make a ghost pepper jus. It’s a cold marinade that you can use for lots of different dishes – we use it here at Turtle Bay in our poke, for example.

With whom would you most like to have dinner? Jesus, I think. I know it’s impossible, but there would be a lot I’d like to ask him.

If you hadn’t been a chef …? I would have loved to have been an entertainer (laughs) – not that I’m a musician or anything, but I might have enjoyed the freedom of only being dependent on myself.

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