F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: Alan Wong’s, the Pineapple Room by Alan Wong, Alan Wong’s Amasia (Hawaii)
What’s your signature dish?
Ginger-crusted onaga, which was inspired by the traditional Chinese recipe for cold ginger chicken. We encrust a piece of onaga fish with ginger-scallion oil and top it with panko. It gets toasted in a broiler, and served with sautéed Hamakua mushrooms and Lahuku corn and a miso-sesame vinaigrette. The acidity in the vinaigrette is meant to bring out the sweetness in the fish.
Who is your food mentor?
Andre Soltner of Lutèce in New York City. He taught me that having a good foundation is the most important thing in cooking.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all-time?
Le Menu Gastronomique: An Interpretation of Nouvelle Cuisine, by Jack Gillon. It taught me to put my ego aside and cook for the occasion, which is sometimes a difficult thing to do. For example, when you’re cooking for a wedding, it’s more important to celebrate the couple and their wedding than the food.
What’s a dish that tells your story as a chef?
Da Bag. It utilizes the French technique of en papillote, but with aluminum foil instead of parchment paper. Pork and clams are a classic combination of flavors, and this dish uses Kalua pig (Hawaiian slow cooked, smoked pork). It’s also a surprise because it gets served to the guests looking like a big Jiffy Pop bag, and it’s opened tableside.
What's the most important skill you need to be a great cook?
A great attitude.
What’s the best bang-for-the-buck ingredient?
Eggs. You can use them in so many ways, for all meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
What’s your current food obsession?
Noodles. I can eat them every day, and I’m working on my own noodle pop-up.
What do you eat in the kitchen while standing up?
Kimchi right out of the jar, and my favorite snack is arare (Japanese rice crackers).
Best bang-for-the-buck food trip?
Singapore. The street food and hawker stalls have delicious food that costs very little.
If you were going to take Thomas Keller, Tony Bourdain or Mario Batali out to eat, where would you go?
I would take Thomas Keller to Side Street Inn in Honolulu. I know he likes to try simple, local food, and this is one of my favorite places. We’ve already taken Tony Bourdain there, and he enjoyed it.
If you were facing an emergency, and could only take one backpack of supplies, what would you bring?
My knife, drinking water, rice, taro and pipikaula (Hawaiian-style dried beef). And I’d eat fresh fruits that I would find.
What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
Natto (Japanese fermented soybeans). It’s the next superfood.
What’s the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
The group photo taken of me with our vice president of development Leigh Ito, wine director Mark Shishido, and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, at the ruins in Ephesus, Turkey. We took it during a cruise through the Mediterranean last November.