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Food & Dining // Food & Beverage Focus
Jo McGarry

Photo by Jo McGarry

Public relations manager, Sheraton Waikiki, Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Of all the people in our local F&B industry, I would put you in the top 10 of most serious foodies. (Laughs) Well, I started early. I come from a food and beverage background. My father was a franchise developer in New York and for years we’d open up fast-food restaurants – everything from Mrs. Fields to Taco Bell to Burger King and Blimpies and we’d get them up and running, take the year’s profitability, put them on the market and then start up new again. Obviously that was a huge learning experience. I especially learned about working from the bottom up and doing every job. My dad would have us work at everything from the culinary side to the marketing of each restaurant. And I saw the passion it takes to do well. After my dad retired he went back to China and now runs a number of bakeries called Bread Talk and he also owns a Chinese restaurant.

No wonder you are so food savvy. You must have eaten well growing up.

Yes, there was never anything we were not allowed to eat. We were encouraged to try everything. One of my earliest memories is of eating fresh turtle prepared by my grandmother. Chinese people like to see that everything is fresh – that’s why we like to see the heads on fish, the feet on the chicken. I think the Chinese approach to food has always been farm to table.

Yes, absolutely. We like to know where our food comes from. It’s so important. I just came back from China and my dad took us to a farm-to-table restaurant where we actually sat in the fields of a completely self-sufficient farm where the fish was caught from the hydroponic pools feeding the plants and vegetables we ate for lunch. It was incredible.

You work very closely with the chefs at Sheraton and Royal Hawaiian. How much of their success nowadays depends on being media savvy. A great deal. Of course, you have to be a great chef to succeed, but media has changed so much that you now have to be on live TV, act spontaneously and respond to media. When we hire, that’s also what we look for in a chef.

Favorite dish at Beachhouse? There are two. An incredible roasted bone marrow with gremolata and foie gras toast. They are both amazing.

Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? This time in China we had braised monkey. It was interesting. It was a little on the boney side, not too much meat, and it tasted a little like rabbit. Buttery and maybe a little gamey.

Favorite places to eat when you’re not working? Home Bar and Grill for salt and pepper shrimp served over home made shrimp chips, and kim chee fried rice.

What’s always in your fridge? Good beer. I love Rogue’s Dead Guy. You work with food writers and media from all over the world. Are their attitudes toward Hawaii food changing? (laughs) Some of them still look down on Hawaii. And I tell them all, if you don’t realize Hawaii is a major food destination, you don’t now anything about our Islands.

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