Ave Kwok

Jo McGarry photo

Managing Partner,
Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Hubei. It’s in what we call the heart of China, a very beautiful agricultural area. And then we moved to Hong Kong.

Did you grow up around good food? Yes, of course, but my father was in the medical field and my mother helped him – they weren’t in the food industry. It was when we moved to Hong Kong when I was 9 years old that I was exposed suddenly to a huge variety of food.

That must have had an impact, especially at such an impressionable age. Hong Kong is such a vibrant, dynamic restaurant and hotel city that it was so impressive to me at that age. My initial choice of profession was in hotel and restaurant management. And I chose to study in Hawaii because it also is a city of hotels and tourism.

What was your first job? Pantry chef at Red Lobster, Waikiki. With a high GPA, a strong work ethic and a good degree, it only took me a few months to realize I wouldn’t stay as pantry chef for long.

Would you say that was the start of your restaurant career? (laughs) No, it started at Tanaka of Tokyo, where there is a strong culture of good service and good food.

You were soon to become associated with excellent Chinese dining. Was that a deliberate move? Yes, definitely. I wanted to be able to show people the excellence of Chinese food and service. The Chinese have an incredible culture of dining and hospitality. It was natural that I gravitated toward more Chinese food to highlight and share that.

What’s your idea of a perfect dining experience? To go somewhere where you can eat casually, not stress out, enjoy good food and feel welcomed. There are a lot of easy, nice restaurants here at Ala Moana: the Mai Tai Bar, Tanaka of Tokyo … in fact, I’d say that Romano’s next door is one of my favorite restaurants.

Do you cook at home? (laughs) I like to, but my wife sometimes asks if the restaurant is my home. We do chef training and tastings at the restaurant all the time. You know how it is!

Your dim sum menu is growing and changing all the time. Yes. We take our chefs to Hong Kong and challenge them to come up with contemporary dishes. I think Chinese food is the most challenging for a restaurant. On a dim sum menu there can be 100 types of dishes. We already have more than 75 on our menu, and we are adding more. It’s good to keep challenging our chefs and growing our reputation.