Where were you born and raised? Here on Oahu. I went to Mililani High school, then left when my family moved to San Diego. I graduated from hotel and restaurant management school and then headed straight to the CIA in New York – the same place Roy (Yamaguchi) graduated from.
You have had a pretty dedicated culinary path already. Yeah, I already knew when I was young that I wanted to be a chef. I started cooking when I was 5 or 6. My mom and my grandma were big influences on me.
What kind of food did you grow up eating? The big influence was from the Filipino food we cooked at home, but my mom cooked all kinds of other foods, too.
Earliest food memory? At 6 I wrote down my favorite recipe for barbecue sauce on a recipe card. I still have the original card in my own 6-year-old handwriting. At that age I cooked pretty good barbecue chicken – and spaghetti. I was really into cooking.
You spent time working in New York with Nobu. How is it being back in Hawaii? I missed Hawaii so much. I’m so happy to be back working and living here.
Where do you like to eat out? Oh, all the local spots – Side Street, the izakaya places that I can walk to from my place in town. Home Bar and Grill is a great place … I like anywhere that’s got really good local comfort food.
Do you cook at home? I do when I can, but I’m here at the restaurant a lot. I like to barbecue – I have a whole bunch of cousins here and we like to get together and barbecue, but mostly at home I try to catch up on the laundry and stuff.
What’s always in your fridge? Garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, a drawer of fresh herbs – and pork. I love pork. My mom cooked it in so many different ways when we were younger and I still enjoy it.
Open kitchen cooking like at Roy’s can be kind of stressful for some chefs … Nah, I love the energy in a kitchen like this. There’s so much interaction with the crew, it’s lively, there’s a lot of action. It’s really active and busy (laughs).
If you hadn’t been a chef, what would you be? Maybe the other thing would be a fighter pilot.