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Hawaii’s Hottest Chefs



Call it a hana hou or encore. Twenty five years after a dozen Island chefs put the 50th State on the foodie map, Hawaii is in the midst of a modern revival led by farm-focused chefs bringing the locavore movement to the masses.

The new breed of chefs redefines Hawaii’s culinary scene like Hawaii Regional Cuisine pioneers before them, with renewed focus on traditional Hawaiian food, sustainability, and locally sourced dishes. From the legends to the young guns, here’s your guide to the hottest chefs shaping Modern Hawaii cuisine.

The Legends

Roy Yamaguchi

Roy’s, Eating House 1849, Roy’s Beach House

For many, Roy Yamaguchi represents Hawaii cuisine. He’s been a fixture in the Hawaii culinary scene in the 28 years since opening his flagship Roy’s Restaurant in Hawaii Kai. A menu staple that best reflects Roy’s way is his Misoyaki butterfish. It starts with fresh fish caught in the Islands and incorporates a French-inspired wasabi-ginger butter sauce with Thai black rice.

Hawaii’s first James Beard Award winner is as busy as ever with four new restaurants opening on Oahu, including his first beachfront space at Turtle Bay Resort, and role as co-founder of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.

Alan Wong 
Alan Wong, Pineapple Room

Bon Appétit has recognized Alan Wong as the “Master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.” He excels marrying ethnic-cooking styles with island-grown ingredients to create local dishes with a contemporary twist.

The James Beard Award Winner and Hawaii Food & Wine Festival co-founder is inspired by flavors he tastes when traveling. Wong approaches signature dishes such as Ginger-crusted Onaga with the passion of a photographer and execution of an engineer.

George Mavrothalassitis
Chef Mavro

Rounding out the legendary trio is George Mavrothalassitis, a French born Hawaii transplant and HRC original with an awards list as long as his last name. Recently named one of the 40 Best U.S. restaurants by Gayot, “Chef Mavro” is worth the trip to Hawaii to experience the Chef’s menu and wine pairings.

Just a sampling of the standouts- Island octopus poached in Burgundy wine and Keahole “lobster à la française.” Ooh la la!

Young Guns

Ed Kenney
Town, Mud Hen Water, Kaimuki Superette, Mahina & Sun’s

With a mantra of “local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always,” Ed Kenney is the tattoo-sleeved poster child for the farm to fork movement. The Oahu native’s dishes hit the sweet spot with the right balance of Hawaiian and European influences.

Kenney showcases traditional Hawaiian canoe crops like kalo and ‘ulu on his menus. All of his creations are served up with deceptively simple presentation that’s simply ʻono, the Hawaiian word for delicious! Kenney’s star is rising as he reaches new audiences as the host of the hit PBS series Family Ingredients.

Lee Anne Wong
Koko Head Café

Lee Anne Wong takes comfort food to new heights with unexpected flavor combinations at Koko Head Café. The Top Chef season one fan favorite turns ordinary fare into something extraordinary.

The native New Yorker’s Island style brunch house features sweets worthy of “ a cheat meal” like Elvis’s Revenge. It’s as decadent as it sounds. Or you can stick with “Dumplings All Day Wong.” Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Andrew Le
The Pig & The Lady

Andrew Le’s pop-up became so popular at farmers markets that he opened a restaurant in Chinatown. The Pig & The Lady is a darling of fickle foodies and media, with contemporary food built on Vietnamese flavors inspired by his Mom, “The Lady.”

Customers rave about the P & L Pho, a 12-hour roasted brisket, sirloin, marrow fat, fresh ginger, tokyo negi, sawtooth herb, chili vinegar, fresh rice noodles.

Mark Noguchi
MISSION Social Hall & Café

More than any other Hawaii Chef, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi pours his passion for Hawaii into the food he creates. It’s a deep connection to the land and local ingredients that he credits to years of dancing hula.

Gooch makes throwback dishes that combine eating and education at Mission Social Hall & Café. A menu favorite is a luau stew that Noguchi learned how to make from an uncle.

Michelle Karr-Ueoka
MW Restaurant, Artizen by MW

When it comes to pastries, Michelle Karr-Ueoka is in a league of her own. This James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee honed her culinary skills in Thomas Keller’s kitchens.

Karr-Ueoka enjoys using flavors of the Islands in innovative combinations like a Tropical Fruit Creamsicle “Brulée” or Kula Strawbery Shave Ice.

Chris Kajioka

Another Thomas Keller alum is on the rise shaping Modern Hawaii cuisine with his highly anticipated arrival Senia. Kajioka sources from local farmers and artisans to create a menu that ranges from casual and classic dishes to a 12-course experience with caviar or truffles.

With a deep pool of culinary talent, Hawaii is riding a wave as high as its famous North shore breaks.

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The Rise of Robot Chefs: California’s Innovative Culinary Future




In the heart of California, a groundbreaking transformation is underway in the culinary world. A local restaurant has taken a bold step into the future by integrating AI-powered robot chefs into its kitchen operations, signaling a new era of dining experiences. This innovative approach promises not only to revolutionize the way food is prepared but also to redefine the roles of human chefs in the process.

The Advent of AI in the Kitchen

The introduction of AI robot chefs in California is not just a technological advancement; it’s a glimpse into the future of culinary arts. According to CBS News, these robots are designed to handle various kitchen tasks with precision and efficiency, from chopping vegetables to cooking complex dishes. This technology aims to streamline kitchen operations, reduce food waste, and enhance the consistency and quality of meals served.

The use of AI in the kitchen is a response to several pressing challenges faced by the restaurant industry. One of the most significant issues is the ongoing labor shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants have struggled to find and retain skilled kitchen staff, leading to increased operational costs and reduced service quality. By incorporating AI robots, restaurants can mitigate these challenges, ensuring that they can continue to operate smoothly and efficiently.

How AI Robots Work

The AI robots used in California kitchens are equipped with advanced sensors, machine learning algorithms, and robotic arms that mimic the movements of human chefs. These robots can be programmed to perform a wide range of tasks, from simple chopping and slicing to complex cooking techniques. They are designed to work alongside human chefs, complementing their skills and allowing them to focus on more creative and high-value aspects of food preparation.

For instance, the robot can handle repetitive and physically demanding tasks such as kneading dough, stirring sauces, or grilling meat. This not only speeds up the cooking process but also reduces the risk of human error and injury. Additionally, the robots can be programmed to follow specific recipes to the letter, ensuring that each dish is prepared with the same level of precision and consistency every time.

Enhancing Efficiency and Sustainability

One of the key benefits of AI robot chefs is their ability to enhance kitchen efficiency and sustainability. According to a report by the National Restaurant Association, food waste is a significant issue in the industry, with restaurants generating millions of pounds of waste each year. AI robots can help address this problem by optimizing ingredient usage and reducing waste through precise measurements and portion control.

Moreover, these robots can operate around the clock, ensuring that kitchens can meet the demands of busy service periods without compromising on quality. This is particularly beneficial for restaurants that operate in high-traffic areas or have extended operating hours. By maintaining a consistent level of productivity, AI robots can help restaurants increase their output and profitability.

Impact on the Culinary Workforce

While the integration of AI robots in kitchens offers numerous benefits, it also raises important questions about the future of the culinary workforce. Critics argue that the widespread adoption of robot chefs could lead to job displacement for human chefs and kitchen staff. However, proponents of the technology believe that it will create new opportunities for skilled workers to focus on more creative and strategic roles within the kitchen.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that while some traditional kitchen roles may decline, there will be an increased demand for workers with expertise in managing and maintaining these advanced technologies. This shift will require a new set of skills, including proficiency in robotics, programming, and AI, which can be developed through specialized training programs and certifications.

Real-World Applications and Case Studies

Several restaurants in California have already begun to experiment with AI robot chefs, and the results have been promising. For example, a popular sushi restaurant in San Francisco has incorporated a sushi-making robot that can prepare rolls with remarkable speed and precision. This has allowed the restaurant to serve more customers during peak hours while maintaining the high quality of their dishes.

Another notable example is a fast-casual restaurant in Los Angeles that uses a burger-flipping robot to handle the grill station. The robot can cook multiple burgers simultaneously, ensuring that each one is cooked to perfection. This has not only improved the restaurant’s efficiency but also enhanced the overall dining experience for customers.

These real-world applications demonstrate the potential of AI robots to transform the restaurant industry. By embracing these technologies, restaurants can improve their operations, reduce costs, and provide a better experience for their customers.

The Future of Dining

The rise of AI robot chefs is just the beginning of a broader trend towards automation and technology in the culinary world. As these technologies continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more sophisticated applications in the kitchen, from automated inventory management systems to AI-powered menu planning tools.

For example, AI can analyze customer preferences and dining trends to help chefs create personalized menus that cater to individual tastes and dietary requirements. This level of customization can enhance the dining experience, making it more enjoyable and memorable for customers.

Furthermore, AI robots can assist in ensuring food safety and hygiene by monitoring kitchen conditions and detecting potential hazards. This can help prevent foodborne illnesses and maintain high standards of cleanliness and sanitation in the kitchen.


The integration of AI robot chefs in California’s kitchens marks a significant milestone in the evolution of the restaurant industry. While there are challenges to overcome, the potential benefits of this technology are undeniable. By embracing AI, restaurants can enhance their efficiency, sustainability, and customer experience, setting the stage for a new era of dining.

As we look to the future, it is clear that AI and automation will play an increasingly important role in the culinary world. By staying ahead of the curve and investing in these technologies, restaurants can ensure their continued success and growth in a rapidly changing industry. The future of dining is here, and it is being shaped by the innovative minds who dare to think outside the traditional kitchen.

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Franklin Barbecue Ignites Empowerment with “You Grill Girl!” Event Celebrating Women in Culinary Arts




On April 25th, Franklin Barbecue is set to host one of Austin’s most vibrant and impactful culinary gatherings, the “You Grill Girl!” event. Organized by the Austin Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier, this annual fundraiser is now in its fourth year and continues to support the advancement of women and non-binary individuals in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries.

The event is not just a showcase of culinary expertise but a celebration of community and empowerment. It highlights a diverse array of talents, including women and non-binary chefs and grillmasters, who will serve an array of smoked and grilled delicacies. The lineup this year is particularly stellar, featuring local luminaries such as Sarah McIntosh, the chef-owner of Epicerie, who will be serving a delectable smoked fish dip. Janie Ramirez, the executive chef at Dai Due, will delight attendees with aoudad hot dogs complemented by berbere mayo and pickled onions.

Further adding to the gastronomic allure, Sarah Petmecky, Amie Brown, and Theo Nesland from Franklin Barbecue itself will whip up their special Y’allapeño Poppers. The creative genius of Laura Sawicki, the culinary director and pastry chef at Oseyo, will be on full display as she presents a chocolate silken tofu pudding adorned with coffee coconut soil and whipped coconut cream. Amanda Turner, chef de cuisine at Olamaie, will offer a twist on a classic with her grilled “Oysters Rockafella.”

The event’s significance extends beyond its culinary offerings. “You Grill Girl has grown in just a few short years to be one of Austin’s most anticipated culinary events,” stated event chair Stacy Franklin. She emphasized the power of gathering such talented and creative women, highlighting their collective capability to support each other while championing a great cause.

Attendees will not only indulge in these fine creations but also enjoy a vibrant atmosphere filled with music from DJ Cassandra and a Disco Cowgirl Dance Party. The evening will also feature a tiki bar and an exclusive selection of silent auction packages, adding an extra layer of excitement to the festivities.

Tickets for the event were available for general admission at $90, covering food and cocktails, with free entry for children aged 12 and under, although VIP tickets have already sold out due to high demand.

“You Grill Girl!” serves as a powerful reminder of the significant contributions made by women and non-binary individuals to the culinary arts. Events like these not only foster a sense of community and support among professionals in the hospitality industry but also inspire the next generation of chefs and culinary experts. The funds raised during this special evening will go towards scholarships and educational grants, helping to ensure that the recipients have the resources they need to succeed and lead in their respective fields.

As this event continues to grow, it underscores the essential role that such initiatives play in recognizing and supporting the diverse talents within the culinary community. It stands as a beacon of empowerment and culinary excellence in Austin, a city already renowned for its vibrant food scene.

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Navigating the Currents of Change: Insights from America’s Top Chefs on the Evolving Restaurant Industry




In an industry as dynamic and demanding as the restaurant business, the voices of chefs carry the weight of experience, passion, and insight. Recently, The New York Times embarked on a mission to capture the essence of what it means to run a restaurant in today’s America by interviewing 30 distinguished chefs from across the nation. These culinary artists, celebrated for their resilience, adaptability, and culinary excellence, shared their candid views on a range of topics, from tipping and culinary education to the impacts of the pandemic and the changing landscape of customer interaction. This comprehensive exploration reveals the complex challenges and opportunities that lie within the heart of the culinary world.

The Tipping Point and Economic Realities

One unanimous sentiment among the chefs is the contentious nature of tipping. Despite its deep-rooted place in American dining culture, tipping remains a divisive issue, with many chefs questioning its fairness and efficiency in compensating their teams. The economic model of restaurants is under scrutiny, with culinary schools often criticized for their high costs and questionable return on investment. The introduction of Gen Z cooks into the workforce has brought new dynamics to kitchens, with these younger workers demanding better pay and working conditions, albeit with a noted decrease in job loyalty. This generational shift is indicative of broader economic challenges, including the struggle to maintain profitability in the face of rising costs and changing consumer expectations.

Cultural Shifts and Customer Dynamics

The cultural impact of movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, alongside the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has reshaped the restaurant industry in profound ways. Chefs like Cheetie Kumar of Ajja in Raleigh, N.C., and Eric Huang of Pecking House in New York City, reflect on the newfound awareness of the fragility of their businesses and the evolving perceptions of what it means to be an essential worker. The discourse around customer behavior, especially as mediated through platforms like Yelp, highlights the tension between the traditional adage of the customer always being right and the modern realities of running a restaurant.

Innovation in Cuisine and Service

Despite these challenges, chefs are innovating not just in their culinary offerings but in their approach to service and staff wellbeing. Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Ga., and Geoff Davis of Burdell in Oakland, Calif., discuss the creative and financial strategies they employ to balance customer expectations with the realities of running a high-quality kitchen. This includes menu engineering to ensure profitability while maintaining culinary integrity and exploring new models of staff compensation to foster a more equitable work environment.

The Path Forward

As the restaurant industry navigates these turbulent waters, the insights from these chefs illuminate the path forward. There’s a clear desire for a more sustainable, equitable, and respectful industry that values the contributions of all its members, from the dishwasher to the head chef. The evolution of the industry is a reflection of broader societal changes, demanding adaptability, resilience, and, most importantly, a willingness to embrace change.

Through their stories, these chefs paint a picture of an industry at a crossroads, grappling with its identity in the face of unprecedented challenges but also finding opportunities for growth, innovation, and transformation. The future of dining, as envisioned by these culinary leaders, promises a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable model that respects both the art of cuisine and the people who bring it to life.

In their words, and through their dishes, these chefs are redefining what it means to dine in America, one plate at a time.

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