Category Archives: Chefs

“Soaring Plates” on Maui

Grilled lamb chops by Chef Jonathan Waxman.

Grilled lamb chops by Chef Jonathan Waxman.


MAUI, HAWAII — They came. They soared.

That’s just what six chefs did for “Soaring Plates,” the gala dinner held a week ago to culminate the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s celebration on Maui. I was lucky enough to join in on the fun as a guest of the Hawaii Tourism Bureau.

The dinner was held at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, on its the newly finished grass patio overlooking the ocean on Ka’anapali Beach. About 350 guests took their seats at boldly black-and-white striped tablecloths just in time for a dazzling sunset.

A festive night under the stars.

A festive night under the stars.

Chef Francois Payard with Chef Jose Garces.

Chef Francois Payard with Chef Jose Garces.

The six-course feast kicked off with a starter by the resort’s Chef Gregory Grohowski of miso-cold smoked Maguro tuna with salmon roe, flower petals and yuzu Japanese mayo that did taste a little like a kicked-up version of the mainstay Kewpie Japanese mayo.

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Take Five With Chefs Graham Elliot, Lincoln Carson, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and Rory Hermann

Chef Graham Elliot, who is hilarious. Note the shirt.

Chef Graham Elliot, who is hilarious. Note the shirt.


MAUI, HAWAII — This year’s Maui portion of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival featured an impressive line-up of illustrious chefs.

I had a chance to sit down with four of them last week: Graham Elliott who’s become one of the most recognizable faces, thanks to his stints judging “MasterChef” and “Top Chef”; Rory Hermann, director of culinary operations for Sprout Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, which includes Otium, Bestia, Republique, Barrel & Ashes, and the Rose Cafe; Lincoln Carson, one of the nation’s premier pastry chefs who worked for eight years with the Michael Mina Group, and now has his own Lincoln Heavy Industries Pastry & Hospitality Consulting company in Los Angeles; and Pastry Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, who owns MW Restaurant in Honolulu with her husband, Wade Ueoka.

They were all part of the festival’s “A Chef’s Paradise. The walk-around evening repast, held on the lawn at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, featured cocktails, wines, and creative bites.

The chefs talked about their favorite Hawaiian ingredients, their guilty pleasures, and more. Carson and Karr-Ueoka also confirmed that they will be partnering with Michael Mina to open specialty food boutiques in his The Street, a gourmet food hall, in the newly transformed International Market Place in Honolulu. Look for The Street to open sometime in the first half of 2017. It will join Mina’s StripSteak, which opened its doors there earlier this summer.

Elliot's dish of Hawaiian Kajiki (blue marlin) crudo with toasted coconut, Maui lilikoi, and whipped avocado.

Elliot’s dish of Hawaiian Kajiki (blue marlin) crudo with toasted coconut, Maui lilikoi, and whipped avocado.

Graham Elliot

Q: What’s it been like for you to be on all of these TV cooking competition shows?

A: It’s super fun. I get to be myself on them. I want to educate people about cooking. If you have a contestant on “MasterChef,” the worst thing you can do is s–t on them about making something awful. Instead, I try to tell them how it could be better.

Q: Your favorite Hawaiian ingredient?

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Orange Beef That Raises The Bar

The orange beef of my dreams -- and yours.

The orange beef of my dreams — and yours.


Chef Dale Talde is a very talented chef, who became known as much for his fly-off-the-handle eruptions as his ferociously flavorful cooking when he appeared on “Top Chef.”

But it’s hard to blame a guy for getting emotional when good food is on the line.

Case in point: His no-holds bar feelings about the stand-by take-out Chinese classic of orange beef.

He laments to no end how this dish has been debased, turning into an evil concoction of cheap beef, battered and fried into oblivion, then tossed with a gloppy, over-cornstarched, candy sweet sauce.

It gives me shudders just thinking about it, too. I never order this dish at a restaurant. Exactly for those reasons.

But in the right hands, it could be a great dish. I mean, beef kissed with a deeply orange-y sauce and garnished with still-crunchy, bright green broccoli — how can that not be delicious?

In Talde’s hands, it actually is. “Orange Beef” finally gets its rightful treatment.


The recipe is from his cookbook, “Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From the Philippines to Brooklyn” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015), of which I received a review copy, by Dale Talde with food writer JJ Goode.

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Two Birds One Stone — And A Whole Lot Of Good Eats

"Ham & Eggs'' done the Two Birds One Stone-way.

“Ham & Eggs” done the Two Birds One Stone-way.


When celebrated chefs and best buds Doug Keane and Sang Yoon joined forces to open a new restaurant in St. Helena this summer, they wanted to do something no one else was yet doing in the Napa Valley.

They wanted to shatter the mold of the usual Mediterranean-inspired fare or Cabernet Sauvignon-favored food so readily found in this region.

The result is the spectacular Two Birds One Stone in the Freemark Abbey winery.

Keane of the Healdburg Bar & Grill, and Los Angeles-based Yoon of Father’s Office and Lukshon, met while competing on “Top Chef Masters” a few seasons ago.

It wasn’t just their free-flowing banter that made them hit it off, but also their love for Asian-inspired cuisine with punchy flavors and plenty of acidity.

Chef Doug Keane in the kitchen.

Chef Doug Keane in the kitchen.

I had a chance to check out the menu recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a California-style yakitori, taking liberties with traditional Japanese food to reinvent it with flair, yet still preserving its soul.

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Miminashi: A Taste of Japan in Napa

Miminashi's onigiri -- one of the best I've ever had.

Miminashi’s onigiri — one of the best I’ve ever had.


When Chef Curtis Di Fede first visited Japan nearly three years ago, he was smitten.

So much so that he’s been back nine times since then.

It also prompted him to leave his partnership with the Southern Italian restaurant Oenotri in Napa in 2014 to strike out on his own to open his own version of a Japanese izakaya, Miminashi, this summer in Napa. I had a chance to try it recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

The space is moody, incredibly dim, and intimate with its substantial, block wood tables and simple wooden chairs. It makes you feel as if you have stumbled inside a special little place that only insiders know about.

The grill.

The grill.

That’s especially true because the entire doorway is made up of hand-carved wood. You have no clue as to what lies inside until you pull open the door to reveal one of the most dramatic ceilings I’ve ever seen. It’s made entirely of wood, pitched like a temple, soaring upwards and narrowing the higher it ascends.

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