Joel Armas

Jo McGarry photo

Kitchen Supervisor, Ihilani Resort

Where were you born and raised? I grew up on a farm in what’s known as the rice bowl of the northern region of the Philippines. When I came to Hawaii, I was fascinated by all the different vegetables and the different ways they were cooked – I could see the cooking was at a higher level than I had been used to and it was fascinating to me.

So that made you want to cook? Yes, it made me want to cook. I started as a dishwasher at Planet Hollywood and went to Leeward culinary school.

You make beautiful ice and food sculptures. How did you learn? I learned it on my own. I watched ice carvers and would go to learn from them – and then I went to work with some for free so I could learn. Then, when I was in culinary school, I took ice carving as part of my course, and I knew I’d make it part of my profession.

But not everyone can create sculpture. You surely have some artistic talent! I have always loved to draw.

I bet Halloween is pretty special at your house. (laughs) Yes, with pumpkin carving you can have a lot of fun. I did The Predator a couple of years ago. That was fun.

OK, The Predator, from a pumpkin. That proves my point that you are highly gifted artistically. Visually, I love to create things. So, with food, I am always seeing in my mind what the sculpture or the dish or the presentation will look like. And everything I do is original. I don’t copy anyone.

Where’s your favorite place to eat when you’re not working? Panda Express (laughs). The food is very fresh, you know.

Do you cook at home? Hardly. I don’t have time. Usually just barbecue, if I do.

What’s always in your fridge? Fruits and vegetables. That’s it.

With whom would you most like to have dinner? Fred DeAngelo – he was my mentor. I was a dishwasher at Planet Hollywood and he encouraged me to learn and to go to culinary school. And he promoted me to a prep cook when I was going to school. When he left Planet Hollywood and opened Palomino, then I followed him there. I would enjoy having the time to have dinner with Chef Fred. I don’t get to see him too much anymore.