Mike Rabe

Jo McGarry photo

President, Creations in Catering

What kind of food did you grow up eating? I grew up in Kalihi eating mostly good, local food. My grandmother owned a farm in Waikane, so we would pretty much eat everything that was grown there.

Oh, just how we all want to be able to eat today. We really did grow up with good, simple food – original farm to table.

What started you off in the catering industry? I grew up around the food-and-beverage industry and always thought I would forge my career path through hotels. But my father-in-law was the person who steered me toward the food-and-beverage industry rather than the hotel industry. I think he was afraid I would travel too much through the hotel industry and take his daughter around the world with me (laughs).

You’ve had your company for almost 30 years. That’s quite an achievement in the food-and-beverage industry. Yes! Twenty-eight years now. I think part of it is being surrounded by great mentors and good people, always listening to good advice – and having family involved in the hotel industry has been a great help.

Mentors? Oh, without a doubt Michael Roman. He was a mentor to so many of us in the catering industry around the world. He was very dedicated to elevating catering to new heights.

Do you cook at home? I don’t. My wife is the better cook, and nowadays our children and our wonderful daughters-in-law cater to us. We’re really very fortunate.

Favorite restaurants? We like to support the places around our neighborhood. We love Happy Days in Kaimuki and Anytime Café at Market City. We also like to eat at Saigon for Thai food, and we love Filipino food, so Max’s or Jessie’s in Kalihi are big favorites.

What’s the largest event you’ve ever catered? Oh, there have been so many! We did the 100th anniversary of Honolulu Gala, and years ago we catered the entire Hydro Fest, which was 20 corporate tents each with between 250 and 500 people in them, plus about 30,000 spectators who all needed food. But probably the biggest and most work was the world premiere of Disney’s Pearl Harbor, where it was a six-day event of celebrity meals and events and receptions – many on top of the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis!

So are you a very calm, organized person, or are you waking up in the middle of the night wondering where the tablecloths are? (laughs) In the field I appear to be very calm, and I work off extensive time sheets where everything is planned and detailed. But before the events? I have been known to have some sleepless nights wondering how it all will get done!