For a rising chef, what could be tastier than working for one of the world’s
most celebrated French chef’s in a world-class destination with access to
fresh tropical fruits, vegetables and seafood? Incorporating MICHELIN
awarded Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s concept of fusion cuisine with
Hawaiian ingredients like butterfish, octopus, Kula onions and palm hearts,
Chef Colin prides himself on turning simple ingredients into something with
a “wow!” factor.
Chef Colin grew up on O‘ahu where spearfishing as a boy taught him not
only about the textures and flavors of local fish, but what those fish eat. The
result is a fuller understanding of local fish and how each is best prepared.
Kampachi, moi, ‘Öpakapaka
, and bigeye ‘
give the chef the opportunity to
showcase some of Hawai‘i’s most prized catches with sauces that explode
with flavor. Sugarloaf pineapple, Meyer lemon, and freshly ground wasabi
are some of the unexpected flavor combinations that give Kauai Grill’s
menu its flare.
Overseeing the first Jean-Georges restaurant in the West Coast—Hawai‘i
region, Chef Colin had some pretty high expectations to live up to. His boss,
after all, created the world famous Jean-Georges global empire including
nine top ranked restaurants in New York, one of which was given a rare
MICHELIN three stars.
Nevermind the pressure, Chef Colin came to the kitchen with executive
sous chef experience working for top Hawai‘i chefs Alan Wong, Roy
Yamaguchi and, in San Francisco, Gary Danko. In 2010 he was nominated
as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star of the Year.
How is cooking at Kauai Grill different from other places you’ve cooked?
We use the metric system in formatting our recipes, keeping everything con-
sistent and precise. Also, we use local products with recipes from New York.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from Jean-Georges?
To be very confident, keep consistent, taste everything and use the highest
quality products you can obtain.
How has Kauai Grill’s kitchen evolved in the year plus you’ve been open?
I have more consistent shipments of quality products. I’ve trained my staff
to work multiple stations and we’ve developed a keen sense of what our
What are you five favorite ingredients to work with and why?
(I’m a local boy!), jasmine tea (I love its flavor in broths and rice), kaffir
lime (since moving to Kaua‘i I’ve fallen in love with the fruit, peel and zest),
Hawaiian salt (specifically Moloka‘i and Kaua‘i salt for its fresh, crisp, sea
flavor) and hearts of palm (its flavor reminds me of coconut, bamboo shoots
and cauliflower all in one, yet it’s very delicate and versatile).
How has being raised on O‘ahu influenced your cooking?
My family taught me how to go spearfishing, took me
celebrations, Japanese festivals and educated me by exposing me to
different cultures and cuisines since I was a child. This has made me more
well rounded as a chef.
Where do you like to dine out on Kaua‘i yourself?
Monico’s for good Mexican, Hamura Saimin for comfort food. Mostly I
enjoy cooking at home with family and friends.
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