Maui Business

Hawaiian Airlines Showcasing Some of Hawaiʻi’s Top Chefs

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(Left to right) Jon Matsubara, Japengo; Andrew Le, The Pig & The Lady; Chai Chaowasaree, Hawaiian Airlines' Executive Chef and Owner of Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu and Waikiki; Lee Anne Wong, Koko Head Cafe; Wade Ueoka, MW Restaurant; and Sheldon Simeon, Mala Wailea and MiGRANT. Courtesy photo.

(Left to right) Jon Matsubara, Japengo; Andrew Le, The Pig & The Lady; Chai Chaowasaree, Hawaiian Airlines’ Executive Chef and Owner of Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu and Waikiki; Lee Anne Wong, Koko Head Cafe; Wade Ueoka, MW Restaurant; and Sheldon Simeon, Mala Wailea and MiGRANT. Courtesy photo.

By Maui Now Staff

Hawaiian Airlines and Executive Chef Chai Chaowasaree have announced the launch of a new inflight culinary program featuring menu items specially designed by five of Hawaiʻi’s top chefs.

The chefs are Jon Matsubara of Japengo, Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe, Wade Ueoka of MW Restaurant, Andrew Le of The Pig & The Lady and Sheldon Simeon of Mala Wailea and MiGRANT.

Hawaiian Airlines is the only US domestic carrier offering complimentary meals to guests in all cabins. Dishes created by each chef will be featured on a six-month rotation in the First Class cabin of all flights from Hawaiʻi to the Mainland through 2017.

“Chef Chai will continue to prepare menus for all Mainland flights returning to the islands,” said Renee Awana, senior director of product development for Hawaiian Airlines. “Together, this all-star line-up will give guests the opportunity to enjoy delicious regional, savory cuisine when traveling domestically. We are dedicated to creating an authentic Hawaiian experience, calling on the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the islands so our guests can begin their Hawaiʻi journey from the moment they board the plane. The guest chef program represents Hawaiian’s continued support of local talent, giving our guests the opportunity to sample world-class dishes from rising stars in our dynamic culinary scene.”


Chef Matsubara officially kicks off the Hawaiian Airlines Featured Chef Series today. Each of his locally inspired, handcrafted dishes will include distinctively Hawaiian ingredients.


“I’m so excited to join the Hawaiian Airlines’ ʻohana,” added Chef Matsubara. “I truly feel that our land produces some of the richest flavors, and I’m honored that guests will have a lasting impression of our beautiful islands through these dishes as they embark on their journey home.”

Guest Chef Schedule

June 1 – Nov. 30, 2015: Chef Jon Matsubara, Chef de Cuisine, Japengo Restaurant
Chef Matsubara has elevated Japengo to a new level as Chef de Cuisine. Matsubara has been featured at the James Beard House in New York City and on the Food Network, Travel Channel and the TODAY Show. Prior to Japengo, Matsubara was at Azure, where he helped the restaurant win Honolulu Magazine’s 2010 Hale Aina Award for Hawaiʻi’s Best New Restaurant and the 2010 Ilima Award for Hawaiʻi’s Best Restaurants Critics’ Choice.


Dec. 1, 2015 – June 1, 2016: Lee Anne Wong, owner/chef, Koko Head Cafe
Since she traded her fashion career for the culinary world, Chef Wong has been bringing her modern-global fusion cuisine to the people. She appeared as a “cheftestant” on Season One of Bravo’s Top Chef, and later served as the show’s supervising culinary producer. In December 2013, Wong made the move from New York City to Honolulu to open up Koko Head Cafe, an Island-style brunch house.

2016: Wade Ueoka, Owner/Chef, MW Restaurant
Specialists in Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine, Chef Ueoka and his wife, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, opened their first joint venture in 2013–MW Restaurant, in Honolulu. Both world travelers, they draw inspiration from their journeys, but none greater than the melting pot of Hawaiʻi and its bounty. In February 2014, MW Restaurant was nominated by the James Beard Foundation in the category of Best New Restaurant.

2016–17: Andrew Le, Creator/Owner/Chef, The Pig & The Lady
Considered one of the “new kids in the kitchen” in the Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine movement, Le is making his mark on Hawaiʻi’s culinary scene by using his cultural roots as inspiration. The mastermind behind the innovative restaurant The Pig & The Lady, Le creates contemporary food featuring Vietnamese flavors–a foundation built on delicious memories first introduced by his mother. His menus have included the exotica of pandan leaves, waterlily herbs, betelnut and nuoc mam (fish sauce).

2017: Sheldon Simeon, Executive Chef, Mala Wailea and MiGRANT
One of Hawaiʻi Magazine’s Top 5 Best Hawaiian Chefs of 2014, Chef Simeon offers a playful, unexpected take on classic dishes. His mix of modern and traditional cuisine creates a distinctive experience that his fans have come to love. Simeon welcomes customers to his restaurant as he would his home, with a relaxed family atmosphere and the slogan “Come My House. Eat!”

Chef Chaowasaree, owner and chef of Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu and Waikiki is recognized as one of Hawaiʻi’s top regional cuisine chefs. Known for fusing fresh, local ingredients with the exotic flavors of Asia, Chef Chai has created a culinary style that reflects the cultural diversity of the Hawaiian Islands. Since 2010, he has designed the domestic and international in-flight meal program for Hawaiian’s First Class guests.

“The great thing about working with a company like Hawaiian Airlines is that they continue to introduce creative ways to showcase local talent,” said Chef Chaowasaree. “With each chef’s diverse background and signature cooking style, travelers have yet another reason to choose to Hawaiian.”

Foodies and wine enthusiasts can experience each participating guest chef in action at this year’s Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival.

As a major sponsor, Hawaiian Airlines will host two signature events during the festival on both Maui and Oʻahu.

Hawaiian Airlines Presents Legend of Shep Gordon will take place on Sept. 6, 2015 at Napili Garden at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa and will celebrate Gordon’s life and achievements with a six-course dinner created by six of his chef friends.

On Sept. 12, Hawaiian Airlines Presents Corks & Forks Pacific Coast will feature over 20 of the most coveted red wines from the Pacific Coast as well as 20 celebrity chefs on the rooftop of the Hawaiʻi Convention Center.

Through both the featured guest chef series and the signature events at the 2015 Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival, the islands’ top culinary minds are able share the diversity and breadth of island cuisine in a unique way that only Hawaiian Airlines can provide.

Guests traveling to Hawaiʻi for the festival from any of the airline’s 11 gateway cities will receive a 5% discount when booking through Hawaiian.

Go online and enter the promo code: HIFOODNWINE.

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