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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Pop-ups, The Whole Ox And Future Chefs

Chef Russell Siu

Chef Russell Siu with culinary students at 3660 on the Rise. Jo McGarry photo

Lots of excitement in the food world this week, with new restaurant openings, “pop-up” restaurants, a law that allows food trucks to sit undisturbed in one place for up to three hours without being moved or ticketed, and a community event involving 14 of the city’s top chefs.

* The success of this past weekend’s pop up restaurant at Auahi Business Center shows there’s unbridled enthusiasm for new dining experiences in Hawaii.

The Arabian Night experience featured Chef Youseff of Xtreme Tacos and a multicourse menu served in a warehouse space transformed, if not quite into an Arabian palace, then certainly into a fun spot for dinner. The first serious pop-up to show that Honolulu is eager and waiting was The Pig and The Lady, currently popping up at Hank’s Haute Dogs on Cooke Street. Look for more of these innovative pop-up restaurants to appear as summer approaches …

* Bob McGee left his pop-up behind and opened his much anticipated restaurant, The Whole Ox Butcher and Deli, last week – and to no one’s surprise, there were lines of eager foodies waiting to get in for breakfast and lunch.

McGee is the real deal in terms of a chef dedicated to a “nose to tail” approach to cooking, and his charcuterie skills are quite likely unparalleled in Honolulu. Homemade pastrami, smoked meats and cold cuts are creating a big buzz around town, and the immensely likeable McGee has hopefully carved a successful niche. You’ll find more information – and some entertaining video – at wholeoxdeli.com. But better yet, go check out The Whole Ox at 327 Keawe St. It’s the site of former Blue Ocean Thai restaurant in trendy Kakaako …

* The first big, chef-driven event of the year takes place Friday, April 27, as a benefit for Niu Valley Middle School. In only its second year, the fundraiser has captured the imagination of the city’s top chefs, who will lead teams of students into friendly culinary competition.

The event started as a way to engage parents, community members, kids and faculty in an effort to raise much-needed funds for the school.

This year Hyatt has stepped in to offer some extra space, and a silent auction will feature some high-ticket food, wine and travel opportunities. But savvy guests will buy tickets for the chance to eat food cooked by Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise, Alan Takasaki of Le Bistro, Hiroshi Fukui, Fred DeAngelo of Ola and The Grove, D.K. Kodama, Colin Nishida of Side Street Inn, and chefs from Roy’s, Chart House, Fukuya Delicatessen, Tiki’s Grill and Bar, and Maile’s Thai Bistro.

“The idea was to get the community involved,” says coordinator Joann Imada, “and the chefs have responded incredibly.”

Chefs spend a day with their teams before the event, and the students – who have to apply for a position on the team – learn much in their professional kitchens.

“The chefs are amazing,” says Imada. “They take so much time with the middle school students and allow them into their kitchens to help prepare the dishes.”

The bonus for foodies is you get to hang with some chefs who really know how to have fun inside the kitchen – and out.

Russell Siu is the host, and you can expect there’ll be some highly creative competition among his invited chefs and friends.

For information and tickets, go to friendsofniuvalley.com.

Happy eating!

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