Marco Elder

Marco Elder

Jo McGarry photo

Executive chef, Brasserie Du Vin Bethel Street Honolulu

Where were you born and raised? I was born in San Augustin, Colombia, and I was raised in Cusco, Peru.

What are some of the dishes you remember from childhood? We ate a lot of country Peruvian fare, so a lot of potatoes, stews with rice, a version of tamales, chicharon and really good pan-seared fish.

Anything that might be a culinary surprise to any of us visiting Peru? I think one of the most interesting things was on birthdays the neighbors would bring over a platter of guinea pigs.

Like kalua pork-type guinea pig? No, it pretty much looked like a guinea pig on a stick. Head on, feet on … it tastes like a gamier version of rabbit, and it’s marinated with a plant that’s a cousin of marigold. It’s an ancient Incan recipe.

Do you use those kinds of experiences today? Yes, quite a few dishes on the Du Vin menu have some influence: pork belly confit, for example, which is similar to the chicharon. The typical accompaniment in Peru is mint and red onion marinated in cider vinegar. It’s really good.

When not working, where do you like to eat? The Whole Ox , SALT … anywhere that has good local food.

Do you cook at home? I try to. My fiancée usually makes dinner after we’ve worked – it’s always nice to have someone cook for you. What’s always in your fridge? Always some salad mix, eggs and any other breakfast items. I’m a big fan of breakfast for dinner.

With whom would you most like to have dinner at Du Vin? The Dalai Lama.

What would you recommend he try? Definitely the baked Brie – it’s such a great dish. And right now we have a new lunch menu where we’re using locally grown products to take classic dishes and turn them around. For example, there’s tombo poached in aromatics and served as a sandwich with caper mayonnaise. That’s our version of a tuna sandwich. If not a chef, what would you have been? I would have gone with the sciences. I loved math, so probably a mechanical engineer.

Who’s your culinary hero? Mario Batali – he has a really straightforward, honest way of approaching ingredients and of running his kitchen. He says an angry chef is only angry with himself because he didn’t train his staff well. I believe that.