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Anthony (Tony) Vierra

Jo McGarry photo

Executive Chef, Grand Café and Bakery. Hawaii State Art Museum

You were born in Hawaii and raised around Chinatown. That must have been a fascinating upbringing. Yes, (laughs) in a way it was! My grandfather used to give tours of Chinatown, and I grew up, from the age of about 5 or 6, doing the tours with him.

What a great way to learn about one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Honolulu. Yes, and growing up in a Chinese family, there was always a lot of cooking. We’d shop locally in Chinatown, go to the family butcher for meats, pick up pies from Lee’s Bakery …

Who is the best cook in your family? (laughs) It would be absolutely impossible to say, because everybody does something really well. On the menu we’ve revived some of my grandmother’s recipes, like her lemon cake, so there is a lot of our family history on our menu.

Have you always cooked? Pretty much. I was really influenced by the people around me as I was growing up, and when I was 12 years old, I cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner for our family. I had a little help from my mom, but I mostly did the whole thing from scratch by myself.

Do you have time to cook at home? Yes, I love to. I like experimenting with smoking meats and fish. And last weekend I smoked some shrimp.

What’s always in your fridge? Good cheese, cold cuts and fresh fruits.

With whom would you most like to have dinner? I’d love the opportunity to have dinner with Chef Nobu. I think his idea of using Peruvian influences with Japanese cuisine is amazing. He’d be fascinating to talk to about food.

You serve weekend brunch at Grand Café. How’s that going? It’s going well. People already know us for our eggs Benedict and corned beef hash, and now we have the opportunity to experiment and create new dishes, so the brunch menu always has something new on it. We’re also open for breakfast daily, and a lot of people are starting off their day with breakfast meetings here.

What’s the hardest part of running a restaurant? Getting the front of the house and the back of the house working together.