My F&W
quick save (...)

Chris Kajioka

Chef Chris Kajioka
Photo © Olivier Koning

Restaurant: Vintage Cave Honolulu (Read a review)

Location: Honolulu

Why He's Amazing: Because, at 29, he was handpicked by a wealthy Japanese developer (Takeshi Sekiguchi, who'd never even tasted Kajioka's food) to create Honolulu's first super high–end luxury restaurant—and he's more than up to the task.

Culinary School: The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)

Background: Parallel 37, Aziza, The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton (San Francisco); Roy's (Honolulu); Per Se (New York City)

Quintessential Dish: Cabbage with miso crème fraîche

Dedication and Strong Opinions: Two things Kajioka said in the past made Sekiguchi zero in on the young chef: "You sacrifice your personal life for your job," and "I hate that Hawaii[an] regional cuisine is stuck doing Asian fusion."

Early Food Memory: "We didn't grow up with a lot of money," says Kajioka, "but my parents would always take me and my brothers out to dinner. There was this restaurant called Orchid's that did a tableside soufflé…I remember thinking, 'Oh, my god, this is cool.' They were pouring crème anglaise right in the middle—I was five or six at the time—and I thought, 'This is more than just eating, this is an experience.'"

The Vintage Cave Experience: The restaurant is constructed from 150,000 imported, custom-made bricks, has eight tables, 18 original Picassos and two tasting menu options, set at $195 and $295. "Honolulu has never seen anything like this," says Kajioka.

That Cabbage: Kajioka chars sweet cone-shaped Caraflex cabbage in olive oil so the outer layers get crispy and the inner leaves stay tender; he spikes it with miso and lime, then serves it in white dashi. It's the epitome of umami.

You might also like
The Dish
Receive delicious recipes and smart wine advice 4x per week in this e-newsletter.
The Wine List Weekly pairing plus best bottles to buy.
F&W Daily One sensational dish served fresh every day.

Tune in on Wednesdays at 10PM ET for Top Chef: Boston, the 12th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.