Fred De Angelo

Jo McGarry photo

Fred De Angelo
Chef Owner of Ola Restaurant at Turtle Bay Resort, and The Grove, Kailua

Were you born and raised here? I was born in Florida but came here really young. I grew up in Hawaii, boarded at Kamehameha School and went straight into the kitchen after graduating.

I know that you had a classical training – the old style. How did that start? I was working at a hotel and spa resort in Florida, and I quickly went from busboy to kitchen apprentice because the chef was from Japan and I thought he was a local guy from Hawaii! As soon as we started talking he gave me a job right away in the kitchen. I became the ‘spa chef’ almost immediately.

That wasn’t a little intimidating? Nah. It was all Mrs. Dash and French dressing on everything. I could handle (laughs). But then I moved to mentor with a classic French chef, Sylvain Chouinard, and worked my way through all the stations, and trained old European-style learning butchering, patisserie and all the classic styles.

And at that time in Hawaii (mid-’80s) all the fine dining restaurants in Hawaii were still classic styles. Yes, right. The good places at that time were Nick’s Fishmarket, Hy’s, Nicholas Nickolas, Black Orchid. So when I came back, I walked into Nick’s, and Eddie Fernandez was back in the kitchen cutting fish, and he hired me right away.

The concept behind The Grove seems as much about family as food. And our diverse ethnic family and what we eat! There’s my wife Cheryl, her sister Brandy and husband Troy, Troy’s dad, and cousin Nick. It’s our hui. There are all kinds of family recipes that have been adapted for here.

I’ve had Cheryl’s mom’s cornbread. It’s ridiculous. (laughs) Yeah, the cornbread, mango bread; our adobo pork ribs were inspired by Aunty Lenny. The meatballs are my Grandma Viola’s.

Do you have any time left to go out to dinner? Not too much, but when we do it’s over to Le Bistro. Alan Takasaki does an incredible job. We really love his place. It’s our destination restaurant for sure.

Are you a bit schizophrenic now that you have two restaurants? You could say that because in reality the two restaurants are completely different. The Grove is global cuisine locally sourced. Ola is beachside casual with a completely different menu.

Anything you’d recommend for summer? The Brussels sprouts salad has become kind of a signature dish here in Kailua. And we have a lot of small plates – some starting at $2 – so there’s a lot of room for experimenting.

What’s next? Just keeping up with challenging ourselves, I think. As soon as things get comfortable in the kitchen you need to change it up for guests. You can’t afford to stay safe and mundane. The challenge is always to maintain passion and focus.