Where are you originally from? Washington. My father grew up in Kailua.My grandfather was the first chief of staff at Castle Hospital. We always had family reunions on the Big Island.
Lifelong passion to be a chef, or came to it by accident? I needed something to do. Cooking seemed like a good idea. My brother’s friend was the executive chef at New York New York in Vegas. I went to see him, and he gave me the rundown on culinary schools.
Which was? That school is just school. You get out of it what you put in, and that the work experience is the most important thing. So I got some restaurant experience and liked it, I chose a school in Portland with the shortest curriculum, did an internship at Kahala (Mandarin) and worked a bit in Vegas.
Vegas has quite an incredible food scene. I was at Nobu. Hated Vegas. I volunteered when they were looking for someone to open Nobu Waikiki.
You went from fine dining to an extremely popular food truck (MELT), to your restaurant Prima. The biggest difference is? The financial side is a huge difference. Before it was somebody else’s money – now it’s mine.
Do you cook at home? I try not to. My girlfriend complains that every time I cook it takes two hours. She gets impatient.
What’s always in your fridge? Usually beer, always Parmesan, eggs …
With whom would you most like to have dinner at Prima? My uncle Les Ozawa. He was kind of an influence on me. He was a sous chef at the Hyatt. And my grandfather.
Tips for first-timers at Prima? Everything we do is best served family style. And we just advise people to get as many plates as possible and share. It’s the way I like to eat – try as many things as possible.
Recommended from the menu? One of our biggest-selling dishes is the Pappardelle Curry Bolognese with fried curry leaves. It’s basically a wide pasta with a Bolognese made with ground pork and veal infused with star anise, cinnamon, Madras curry. The sauce is tossed with the pasta and finished with fried curry leaves.
Your pizza is worth making the trip to Kailua from anywhere on the island. Yeah, we brought in our brick pizza oven from Italy. It’s made by Stefano Ferrara, a third-generation pizza maker from Naples. It cooks more evenly than most pizza ovens.
Summer produce highlights on the Prima menu this month? Ho Farms cherry tomatoes are better than normal right now, and we’re getting local tako from Kaneohe Bay and venison from Molokai.