Zameer Mallal

Photos from Jo McGarry

Zameer Mallal
General Manager, Roy’s Hawaii Kai

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Singapore. My mother is Indonesian, and my father is Pakistani. I was brought up with the best of two different worlds, especially when it came to food.

You must have some great early food memories.

I really do. We ate so many different kinds of food: Indian, of course, and Indonesian, and a type of cuisine called nyonya. It’s a type of Malaysian cuisine that’s made by Chinese people. It gave me a great appreciation of the time it takes to create really wonderful food.

What are some of your favorite childhood dishes?

Probably my favorite dish of all time is Hainanese chicken rice. Unfortunately you can’t get it in Hawaii, or not that I know of.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?

At my house. My wife, Lisa, is a fabulous cook. She is from Tahiti and comes from a family of restaurant owners there, so she understands complex dishes and the time and patience it takes to make them. She learned Indian cooking from my mother and Chinese cooking from her family, who still own a restaurant in Tahiti. She makes the best Indian curry you ever tasted.

It’s not hard to see why you were drawn to the food industry!

I always wanted to be in this industry. I love interacting with people – and who wouldn’t want to be around great food and wine all day?

You are part of an extremely busy, vibrant restaurant where long hours and working on holidays are par for the course. What’s the secret to keeping it all together?

Making your family part of your restaurant life. We spend such long hours here that we basically bring up our children around the restaurant. At Roy’s, there’s an incredible culture of family – not just with our customers, but with our staff and with their families, too.

What’s always in your fridge?

Right now, freshly cut mangoes. There is nothing that tastes as good after a long 12-hour shift!

If you hadn’t been in the restaurant industry, what would you have been?

An electrical engineer. I don’t know why, I’ve always loved dabbling with electronics.

Favorite dish at Roy’s?

That’s tough. Probably the Misoyaki Butterfish and Forbidden Rice. With whom would you most like to have dinner?

Lee Kuan Yew. He was the first prime minister of Singapore and he took what was basically a little fishing village and made it into one of the wealthiest countries in Asia. I would love to be able to talk to him about how he made that possible.