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Kunani Blake

Jo McGarry photo

General Manager,
Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Were you born in Hawaii? Yes, born in Waimea on Kaua’i, and I went back and forth a lot between Oahu and there.

And I once spent some time on Niihau when I was a little boy. It was a great experience. I went with my grandmother to visit family there. I remember there was no running water, no electricity. It was an incredible experience that I will always remember. Totally different way of living.

What sparked your interest in the restaurant industry? I kinda fell into it, and liked it right away. My first job was at Hard Rock Café when it first opened. I worked my way up from busboy to manager.

What do you like about front of house? The energy, the pace, it’s really fast, especially during the holidays.

But it can be really stressful during the holidays, don’t you think?

(laughs) Well, it is. But if you just take a step back, take a breath when other people get stressed, then you can keep everything positive.

Do you eat out much? When I do it’s definitely comfort food – those kind of hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop type places. I like sushi, noodles – anything that’s simple and good.

Do you cook at home? When there’s time I like to barbecue because it’s hard to mess things up on the grill.

What’s always in your fridge? Nothing special, the usual milk and eggs for breakfast … apart from that, I’m not too fussy.

There’s a new menu at Macaroni Grill, with smaller, lighter portions. Anything that you especially like? Our chicken under a brick. It’s cooked in a 500-degree pan with a hot brick on top – people absolutely love it. And you can’t go wrong with the chicken marsala. And now we have these great lunch specials with three salads, soups and salad combos … there’s a lot to try!

What would you be if you hadn’t been in the industry? A helicopter pilot. I definitely wanted to be a pilot at one time.

Favorite thing about the holidays? Oh, it sounds trite, but seeing the smiles on people’s faces … the happiness … the fact that people try to be nicer, and try to be a little more kind and compassionate. All of that’s good. And even though it’s still stressful, it’s good to be around!