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Where Are Hawai‘i’s Top Chefs Now?

Updates on nine chefs who cooked at some of Hawai‘i's favorite restaurants, with one crew opening a new place this summer.


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Chefs are no longer anonymous, behind-the-scenes players in local restaurants. Thanks, in part, to the Food Network and other TV shows, the personalities in the kitchen are just as well known as the name of their restaurants. Diners track their favorites from eatery to eatery.

 

Here are nine chefs who made names in Hawai‘i and where you can find them cooking (or planning to cook) now.

 

Alejandro Briceño

Former chef/partner of V Lounge and Prima

Briceno left Honolulu in 2014 to be the corporate pastry chef for Nobu West Coast—a move he says he did for the money and to work with friends. But he just left that job and is planning to come back to Honolulu by the end of the year. He hopes to open a new restaurant. “The time is right,” he says.

 

Will Chen, partner in Fresh Box

Former chef de cuisine at Moana Surfrider

Will Chen

Photo: Martha Cheng

 

While Chen still runs Fresh Box, he does so from afar, while traveling everywhere from Tel Aviv, Israel to Yucatan, Mexico. He’s currently based in Boston, where he’s helping his family run their Chinese restaurants, but says he’s cooking up new culinary ideas for when he eventually returns to Honolulu.

 

Quinten Frye

Former chef of Salt Kitchen and Tasting Bar and Cocina

After leaving Honolulu in 2014, he took gigs on the Mainland, working with Big Bear Café in D.C. and then Tacolicious restaurant group in San Francisco. Now, he’s based in Bali, working as a private chef and traveling throughout Southeast Asia.

 

Rachel Murai

Former pastry chef at Vintage Cave and The Pig & The Lady

Racel Murai

 

In 2016, when her husband’s military assignment in Oklahoma was canceled last minute, Murai scrapped the search for a job in Tornado Alley, as she likes to call it. She’s now the bakery manager at Kona Coffee Purveyors/b. Patisserie at International Market Place.

 

Lindsey Ozawa

Former chef/partner of V Lounge and Prima

About six years ago, when Ozawa left Prima, he and other partners were negotiating a restaurant lease with Howard Hughes Corp. In the meantime, he bounced around a few restaurants and helped out at Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi. When the restaurant deal fell through, he decided to stick with farming at the He‘eia nonprofit.

 

Andrew Pressler

Former chef of Grondin French-Latin Kitchen

Pressler left Grondin two years before it closed, worked as a line cook at Prima and, for the past year, has been the sous chef at The Pig & The Lady. He’s starting his own Southeast Asian concept, dubbed Indomalaya, currently in the form of pop-up dinners at The Pig and the Lady, held approximately every month.

 

John Estrella, Brandon Hamada and Neil Nakasone

Home Bar and Grill

Home Bar and Grill

The former Home bar and grill crew in 2014. (FROM LEFT) BRANDON HAMADA, JOHN ESTRELLA, JAROD MATSUBAYASHI, NEIL NAKASONE AND CHRIS TAI.
Photo: Olivier Koning

 

The trio hasn’t been gone from the scene long—the crew ran the kitchen at Home Bar and Grill, which closed about a year ago. But they’re planning the launch of Hamada General Store in Kaka‘ako this summer. At the former site of Hamada's family grocery store that began in 1958, they’ll serve “local comfort foods in a contemporary way,” Hamada says.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MARTHA CHENG

 

 

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