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Food & Dining // Food & Beverage Focus
Jo McGarry

Tom Juliano

Jo McGarry photo

Managing Partner, Park Restaurant

You’re very well-traveled. Where do you call home nowadays? I was born and raised in Chicago, but I call Hawaii home. I’ve lived here and left six times and have always come back.

Is food and beverage your background? Yes. I was born into the business. My family owned taverns and restaurants in Chicago – they were the original gastropubs. The kind of pubs we’re seeing now have the same kind of atmosphere we had 50 years ago.

So you started working at an early age? Yes, of course. We did everything. You don’t even think of a restaurant as a business or as work when you’re young. You just know it as part of your life. If you had to cook, you had to, if you had to wait tables, you did. It was just how we grew up.

You seem to be drawn to all sides of the industry – food, land and retail projects, hotels … you were president of Kapalua Land Company, GM of Kea Lani … Yes, that’s true, but everything I’ve done always has been hospitality-based. It’s in my blood (laughs).

This is a much more demanding industry today, especially in the luxury market, largely because guests are better educated. Or at least they think they are … Mmm … (laughs) I would offer that some TV shows, where extremely talented chefs are judged and eliminated based on whims and personal tastes, have not been the best thing for our industry. And I think the Internet has given a voice to people who think they are judges of food when perhaps they should not be.

The restaurant opened very quietly last month. How is it going? Great. We wanted to spend August and September listening to our customers and finding out what they want, and in the first 30 days or so, we’ve had some great feedback. Spending time with our customers is absolutely the best way to find out what we are doing right – and what has to change.

One thing you’d recommend everyone try at Park? Our pea soup is something people are really enjoying. It’s already become a favorite.

Do you cook? I love to cook.

What’s always in your fridge? Italian sausage, great selection of cheese and salami, yogurt …

Favorite kitchen implement? A mandolin.

With whom would you most like to have dinner? Oh, I think some great mix of ultra-conservatives and ultra-liberals … maybe Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and J. Edgar Hoover for dinner with maybe Rush Limbaugh thrown in to stir things up. I love intelligent folks with totally different passion for the same subject.

Park Restaurant Lotus Honolulu, 885 Kalakaua Ave. 954-7420

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