Archive for the ‘Contemporary’ Category

‘Chef Hunter’ focuses on Merriman’s tonight

December 1st, 2011

Food Network photos
Carrie McCully brings restaurateurs and executive chef candidates together on The Food Network’s “Chef Hunter.”

Attaining executive chef status is a grueling process in itself, made even tougher when cameras are involved. That’s the challenge of Food Network’s new series “Chef Hunter,” which shows what happens when out-of-work chefs head to Kauai, intent on landing an executive chef job with Peter Merriman.

The episode will air at 11 p.m. today, with chefs put to the ultimate test of culinary skill, business acumen and tenacity required to be an executive chef. Beyond the basics of creating a couple of dishes for Merriman to sample, the chefs are given full run of the restaurant for one night and tasked with creating their own menu and serving a packed house of the restaurant’s best customers.

It’s not just made-for-television stuff because of the show’s real-life implications, according to Carrie McCully, a New York- and L.A.-based professional culinary recruiter, who takes her work very seriously.

In a phone interview earlier today, she said, job seeking on the show “is absolutely harder because they have cameras all around and they’re under a tremendous amount of stress. They’re literally going in and creating a menu, sourcing all the products, working with a team they never met before, and serving local patrons of the restaurant. It’s much harder than the average interview.

“I’ve never had one chef who didn’t say that it was the toughest interview they’d had in their life, and it’s been a career changer. Once they experience it, everything else always seems like a piece of cake.”

It marks a big commitment to the hosting restaurant as well, who entrusts the chefs with the premises, all its equipment, and its clientele. Though throughout the process, McCully said she and Merriman, one of the architects of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, were right there to observe the chefs’ working methods.

“It’s important for him to create the right team because he’s often on the road, and has to know this person is capable, so he’s watching every movement the chefs are making,” McCully said, while adding, “Peter is such a professional. He’s had so much experience and has a terrific sense of humor, so it’s really hard to ruffle his feathers. There were a lot of laughs (over the chef’s blunders), like that’s happened before.” (more…)

YuZu splashes into scene

November 8th, 2011

Nadine Kam photos

Motoko “Moco” Kubota shows YuZu’s lotus pizza.

YuZu Hawaii hosted its grand opening party Nov. 3 at its location on the ground floor of the Ala Moana Hotel. The casual bar concept described as “not your grandmother’s Japanese cuisine” is the latest project of Isamu Kubota and Motoko “Moco” Kubota—following Kai Okonomiyaki, Kaiwa and Hale Macrobiotic—who continue to feed us in novel ways.

The couple still lean healthy, using veggie-based mayo, gluten-free tamari, housemade dashi and focusing on locally grown produce.

In spite of their having done this countless times before, the restaurant wasn’t quite ready when guests arrived, only to be left standing outside while the room was being set up. Food and drink were also slow to materialize and when platters did arrive, there was so little food on them that a mere six people could clear a whole tray if they merely grabbed two skewers of yakitori chicken.

It got to a point where people stood around the table and swarmed the minute a plate landed. I called it a fish feeding frenzy and Yelper Thomas Obungen corrected that it was more like watching piranha!

One of the restaurant’s pieces of food-related artwork.

Photographer Travis K. Okimoto took this shot over my head, with lots of hungry people patiently waiting for us to get our shots before closing in like zombies after brains! You can see all his yummy photos of the evening on his Facebook page.

I have to admit it was a bit scary, like being in the center of a mosh pit at times when I was just trying to take a photo, surrounded by an immediate circle of photographers, and outer circle of hungry people armed with chopsticks and forks. In those moments, I looked for a gap in the human wall to slip through, without risking grabbing a bite. It made no sense to try to grab a plate either, because by the time you got back, every scrap would be gone.

What I did sample was simple fare of french fries with yuzu aioli, garlic and regular soy beans, and tender yakitori that also paired well with the aioli. There was also a lotus-cheese pizza which could also be doused with Yuzu-It!, a bottled yuzu-pepper sauce.

One big selling point is that most of the menu items are priced at less than $10.

After I left, others who were there tweeted me about the udon I missed. When they’re running up to speed, three kinds—(hoso, thin round), (gokufuto, wide flat) and (futo, thick round), will be prepared fresh daily and cut to order. I look forward to trying it without battling a crowd.

YuZu is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner service  from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., with full bar service, and parking is free at Ala Moana Hotel, or just walk over from Ala Moana Center after one of your holiday shopping tours.

Organic french fries can be dressed with a housemade ketchup or yuzu aioli.

Garlicky soybeans.

Tender yakitori, umm-umm good! Get them teriyaki style, or spicy. Both are salty, made for the bar set.

Ball-shaped temari sushi are named after the temari balls crafted from kimono fabric. Featured here are hamachi with jalapeño and sake sushi.