Jon Shimotsukasa

Jo McGarry photo

Dining Room Manager, Karai Crab at The Willows

Where were you born and raised? Honolulu

What sparked your interest in the food and beverage industry? I’ve always loved working with people. I worked in the tourism industry for a while, but I was always drawn to restaurant work, and I’d worked at The Willows whenever they needed extra help. When the opportunity came up to work here with the opening of the crab house, I jumped at it.

So many people do not like the interaction that front-of-house restaurant work brings. What do you enjoy about it? (Laughs) I really do like people. And I take it personally when I work somewhere if people aren’t having a good time. I feel as if it’s our opportunity to make people happy, and if someone is disappointed in their evening, I appreciate being able to fix that.

Where did your passion for people come from? My mother always taught me to treat people well – you know, to treat them as you’d like to be treated. Kind of old school, but true. And I just always watched how my aunties and uncles and family members treated each other, and thought that was the right way to treat everyone. In the restaurant industry, you want to treat people as family.

I want to come to your house for holidays. You must have some great get-togethers! (Laughs) Yes, we do! We do all the traditional holiday gatherings, of course; eat all the traditional Japanese and local foods.

What do you suggest diners try on a first visit to Karai Crab? I usually recommend the misoyaki clams, or the king crab combo with a Karai special sauce is very popular. And then there’s our whole Dungeness crab with the sauce all over the shell – that’s amazing.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working? I like to go to bars that have good local food, so Tsunami, Dash, and Home Bar and Grill are among my favorites.

Are you a good cook? (Laughs) Well, my specialty is teriyaki Spam, Vienna sausage and eggs. So you decide!

What’s always in your fridge? Crystal Light iced tea – I have to have it! What would you be if you hadn’t chosen the hospitality industry as a career? I think an elementary schoolteacher. I think my love of people and of interacting with them would be put to good use in the teaching world.

Karai Crab, 901 Hausten St., Honolulu