Paul Ajifu

Jo McGarry photo

Jo McGarry photo

General Manager,
Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel and Resort

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in San Diego and came to Kailua as a baby and grew up there. Went to Kailua High School.

What got you interested in the food and beverage industry as a career?

My first job was at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua. I learned food and beverage from there, and I worked my way from the bottom to captain. I’ve worked in the industry ever since.

Did you want to pursue a career in the industry?

I loved it from day one. I loved interacting with the members, the guests, and the camaraderie that we had over at the Mid-Pacific Country Club and at other places I worked after that was so great. I worked with so many good people. I loved that part right away.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working. And you can’t chose Hoku’s.

(laughs) Le Bistro, of course. We love BLT Steak in Waikiki, and Morio’s Sushi Bistro on King Street is the best. It has fabulous sushi.

Do you cook at home?

Yes. I love to cook at home. If you were coming for dinner I might make bolognaise – I think I make a pretty good sauce.

OK, what’s the secret?

Cook it for hours and hours… adding the pasta water as you go along, and adding a little roasted fennel is a secret of mine.

What’s happening on the menu at Hoku’s right now?

The salt-crusted lamb chop is wonderful. The whole fish is amazing. there’s opakapaka or ehu or onaga. Everybody loves the seafood tower, and right now we’re bringing in fresh oysters from Washington.

Sunday brunch at Hoku’s is so popular. I’ve tried making reservations so many times and just give up!

(laughs) Yes, we’re very fortunate that people enjoy it so much. I think because everything is freshly made and people recognize that the buffet line is extremely high end … there are lobster tails, shrimp, eggs benedict, raw oysters … the misoyaki butterfish is incredible. And I have to say, the bread pudding is the best I’ve ever tasted.

What’s the best advice you could give someone entering the food and beverage industry?

Learn how to handle stress. Food and beverage can be really stressful but if you handle it well and carry yourself well your staff will not get stressed because they will take their lead from you.