Jose’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina, Kaimuki
Despite your name, I know you were born and raised here. (Laughs) Yes, my husband is Czech. I was born and raised in Hawaii.
You were exposed to the restaurant industry at a very early age …
Yes! My dad, David Nagaishi, has been in the restaurant business for a long time. We grew up around the atmosphere of fine-dining restaurants like Nick’s Fishmarket and Black Orchid.
Did you eat at fine-dining restaurants often? All the time! (laughs). As children we ate out a lot. But my dad is really an excellent cook, especially of the kind of old-school gourmet dishes. So eating at home was fun, too.
It’s not hard to see how you were influenced by the industry. As I grew up, I always enjoyed being a hostess. I always enjoyed having people over to my house, and so I really thought I would love working in a restaurant. I started as a waitress.
Jose’s isn’t fine dining, but it’s really a unique restaurant. It’s incredible. We’ve been here for 40 years with the same family owners. It’s really such a small neighborhood place, and that’s one of the reasons for the success. We know everyone. We survive because of regular customers. We can put a drink on the bar before our regulars sit down! And that’s what’s important to me: the people.
Do you cook at home? I love to cook. I love to make pasta. I make a lasagna that takes five hours. I learned the recipe from my best friend’s nona.
What’s always in your fridge? Blueberry Eggos for my children, flour tortillas and cheese.
What should we try at Jose’s? Brian’s pork burrito is awesome … and our chili is fantastic, too. Our Fire House Chili is an original recipe and it’s so good on french fries or nachos or anything. People love it. And a margarita, of course.
With whom would you most like to have dinner here at Jose’s? Ian Somerhalder (Damien Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries). That might be fun. And Gov. Abercrombie, although maybe not both of them at the same time. I’d like to talk to our governor and invite him to come and hang out with some regular people. And then I’d like to take him to my childrens’ class so he can see teachers at work and see what they really do.