Tony Ho

Jo McGarry photo

12 Avenue Grilll

You were born and raised here in Kapahulu, right? Yes, I was. I feel so comfortable here, and felt the same way when I was at 3660 On the Rise.

Where was your first job in the industry? I started at Don the Beachcomber when I was 18; they had a job search at KCC (Kapiolani Community College) that I won. I worked under Lorita Nakano, and some of the things she taught me way back then I still use today.

For example? It seems trite, or it seems simple, but really it’s true. The things I believe in are the things I learned at the beginning of my career: Treat people how you’d like to be treated.

Some people say that, but you actually personify it. I believe you when you say making people happy is an important part of the industry. (laughs) Thank you! I love working in this industry, and I’m proud to serve people the food we make. It was the same for me at 3660. Gail (Ogawa) and Russell (Siu) taught me so much.

Comfort food coupled with an intimate dining scene seems important to you. Yes, yes, it really is. I enjoy the camaraderie and friendship of regular customers – the kind of thing that happens in a neighborhood restaurant.

Favorite places to eat? The Pineapple Room, Fukuya Deli, Mariposa, Nordstrom Café, California Pizza Kitchen, Café Laufer … so many places!

Has Kaimuki changed a lot in the past few decades? Some, and then again not. I remember when the Christmas lights were strung across Waialae Avenue – and even though things have changed, we still have that great community, neighborhood atmosphere here.

What might you have done if you weren’t in the industry? I think some kind of caring, social work kind of profession. I love helping people. I love making them feel better. It’s why I think the restaurant industry is such a great profession.

With whom would you most like to have a casual neighborhood dinner?

President Obama. He’s inspiring. I’d like to tell him how proud I am of him.