By now you probably recognize that this year is the Year Of The Monkey. I am honored to share this distinction with Chef Alan Wong who, like me, was born in the year of the monkey. It was back in 1999 that I decided I wanted to work at the Best Restaurant in Hawaii. There was a clear name that prominently stuck out and I cold-called Alan Wong's restaurant on King Street that day and asked if they were hiring. 10 years would pass and I worked my way through the dining room/front of the house. I started as a hostess, then stocker, bus girl, food runner, expeditor and lastly a server or wait captain. While I was Miss Hawaii 2004 I waited tables and continued to pay my rent with the money I made working at the restaurant. I worked there as long as I could until I was offered the morning anchor position and couldn't get the hours in at the restaurant anymore.
Needless to say, it truly was the best job I ever had. I traveled with chef and the team to places like Vancouver, Canada for the launch of the Aloha Airlines Vancouver route, of which Chef Alan was the featured airline chef. I also went to Japan with Chef as part of the crew for the anniversary of Alan Wong's Japan and when I was still anchoring the news I also flew to Maui to get a preview of Alan Wong's Amasia at the Grand Wailea. Now the man who is like an uncle to me has just celebrated a milestone, the opening of the new Shanghai Alan Wong's, the original King Street location's 21st anniversary and Chef's 60th birthday is approaching. It truly was my honor to attend this wonderful celebration at the Pineapple Room in Macy's, which I also helped at when it first opened it's doors in 1999.
The event was full of familiar faces, people I waited on years ago, VIP guests who have been supporting and indulging in Alan's food for years, workers who still work at King Street and those who don't, purveyors, clients, supporters and people who just love Hawaiian Regional Cuisine all celebrated this occasion together. The menu consisted of Keahole lobster, braised short ribs, miso tilapia, onaga, shrimp and pork hash, duck and foie gras ravioli, Shanghai dip sandwich, savory ramen, a raw bar and of course dessert (candy bar, banana pie, mini sorbet cones and petit fours).
Now that we have all these amazing restaurants on Oahu and across the state, we really do have the originators of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine to thank for the melding of techniques, flavors, ingredients, fresh local products, textures, aromas and the mix of culture in Hawaii that inspires the food we eat today. Sometimes I have dreams that I still work at the restaurant. I smile and think to myself -- "Oh how I loved that job. I knew the menu, the wine list, the drinks, everything and I loved sharing that with the guests. I wonder if I will ever go back, just for fun?" (P.S. I heard there are pictures in the restroom at King Street from year's past and there is apparently a photo of me working, let me know).