James Donahue

Jo McGarry photo

Executive Chef, Wolfgang’s Steak House, Waikiki

Where were you born and raised? Kahaluu. I grew up and went to school in Kaneohe and then went to Florida after I graduated.

What started your interest in cooking? I guess it really started with my mom teaching me. She always made us Mexican food and Thai food at home, and those flavors started to get me interested in food. We ate a lot of Thai food growing up.

Is your mom from Thailand? No. She’s from Ohio. My family’s background is Irish. We most likely don’t have room to work through that culinary mixup!

Did you start your career at Wolfgang’s here in Hawaii? No, I started at Wolfgang’s in New York and then came here after it opened.

Wolfgang’s is one of the busiest restaurants in Hawaii. What’s it like at 4:30 in the afternoon there? It’s really all about the prep; about getting everything in place and ready to go. In a busy kitchen, the difference between success and disaster is about 20 minutes. If you don’t keep control, everything can start to unravel, like a train on a railroad track.

And after the restaurant closes? There’s a calmness. We’re tidying up, ready to go home.

Where do you like to go after work? Chibo’s you’ll find lots of the Wolfgang’s staff there late at night for Japanese food. And I like town restaurant a lot and JJ Dolan’s. I think JJ’s has the best pizza in Hawaii.

Do you cook at home? Not really.

What’s always in your fridge? A six pack of Blue Moon.

You have so many celebrities and sports figures come to Wolfgang’s. Anyone you’d like to cook for or have dinner with? Michael Vick. Would love to cook a steak for him.