On the Menu with Global Street Food at HFWF
Successful? Creative? Groundbreaking?
Those words may be true, but if respected chef and restauranteur Roy Yamaguchi could pick one word to sum up his career, this is it:
“Lucky,” he says. “Right place, right time. I think I just came around at a time that food was really starting to kick in and a lot of growing was going on. I’m fortunate that I rode the wave, but at the same time, I don’t take it for granted.”
For years, Yamaguchi used to partner with friend and fellow chef Alan Wong and others for fundraising parties at Roy’s Restaurants, to support the farm bureau and Hawai‘i agriculture. From there, with expertise from Yamaguchi’s wife Denise, they were inspired to go big and start the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival seven years ago. Amid all the master chefs, diverse parties and global influence, the festival also focuses on giving back to our local non-profits.
“This has to be a win-win,” explains Yamaguchi. ‘If the festival wins, the community wins, all the sponsors that are involved win. It touches many, many lives.”
Denise Yamaguchi, a business development consultant, has led the charge as the festival CEO. With events on Maui, Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu, the festival has contributed a record $394,000 to 14 local culinary, agricultural and community organizations, including IMUA Family Services, University of Hawai‘i Maui College and Maui County Farm Bureau.
“It’s really cool to be part of an organization that gives back and has been doing it for seven years now,” says Jen Ackrill, director of mixology for SKY and Top of Waikīkī on O‘ahu. “For me, it’s also kind of a geek thing to be around your peers; a lot of us don’t get to see each other as much, so it’s really cool to be like,’ Hey, let’s just go hang out together afterward and catch up because we don’t get always to do that because we’re so busy.'”
Speaking of busy, Roy Yamaguchi oversees a total of 30 restaurants. Ten are here in Hawai‘i, which include Roy’s Restaurant in Kā‘anapali and Humble Market Kitchin in Wailea. He’s also pursuing big plans to open a food business on a cruise ship, currently being built in Italy!
“I’ve created a restaurant called the Asian Market Kitchen, AMK, so we’re going to be on-board a ship that’s being built right now, a 4,700 passenger ship that’s going around the Caribbean,” he explains.
Yamaguchi says even after more than four decades in the business, he still learns something every day, and feels it’s important to “stay relevant” as a chef.
“I have to be involved, to have my finger on the pulse,” he explains. “A lot of people might gravitate toward what’s new, so us old guys, we need to make sure our craft that we’ve been doing for a long time is still fresh.”
The festival maintains its freshness with more than 100 chefs, sommeliers and mixologists from across the globe. The Global Street Food walk-around dining event on Saturday, Oct. 21 featured a dozen chefs, crafting their culinary creations with local ingredients and mingling with hundreds of guests. See our video above to check out the festivities at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. Events continue on Hawai‘i Island and O’ahu though November 5. Find out more at the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival website.