Executive Chef Halekulani
Where were you born and raised? Port Blair, Andaman Islands (between Myanmar and India).
You have such a joy for food, and it’s so contagious. Have you always been that way? (laughs) Yes! I really have. From when I was a little boy I loved everything to do with eating and cooking. For me, food was everything. When I came home from school at 3 o’clock, my first thought was: What do I eat and what’s for dinner? It was always exciting for me.
So dinner was a big deal in your family? A big thing, yes. Even though both my parents worked, we always sat down to a home-cooked dinner every night – and at the end of dinner I would be wondering about breakfast (laughs).
Are you still like that? Yes, of course. Actually, you would not believe how much. I’ve just finished lunch today and already I am thinking of dinner. I am always looking forward to the next thing I will eat. My wife thinks I think of food more than I think of her!
So, you’ve traveled to many different culinary destinations. Do you take your style of food wherever you go, or do the ingredients you meet change what you do? That’s a very interesting question. During my travels through India, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Europe over a period of time, I’ve seen that the influence of the place starts to come out in my cooking.
Are there ingredients that are crucial to what you do? Salt and citrus are my favorites. I focus on them a lot. And Hawaii has so much of that … there’s a lot of difference just in the salt.
You are responsible for everything that happens in the amazing culinary world of Halekulani, from restaurants to banquets to Table One to hosting international dignitaries. So much of the focus is on food. Do you cook when you go home? My wife married me because I cook, so yes, I cook at home (laughs). So sometimes I cook in the morning before a very long day, sometimes at night.
What’s always in your fridge? European butter, milk (for my kids), lemon, limes, oranges – always lots of citrus – and if I have too much, then I squeeze them and freeze the juice.
Where do you go eat when you’re not here in Waikiki? When you’re around food so much, you really want something good – and plain. Fook Yuen has great salt and pepper pork chops, and noodles with spring onion – that’s what I ate the other night with my sous chef. But a restaurant I would eat at all the time is Le Bistro. My girls love it and really enjoy when we can go there.
There’s no better time to enjoy the gorgeous Halekulani than during the holidays. What can we look forward to on the menu this year? Well, we have special menus for the holidays, but we also do custom menus for our guests. And this year we’ll be bringing in venison, squab, duck, geese … along with everything that’s seasonal and locally sourced.