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How to cater for APEC


Photo courtesy of Alan wong's Restaurants

Place setting for the Leader's Dinner

In case you have to cater for APEC, or have the president and 20 world leaders at the table, or the first lady asks you to cook lunch at a ranch, there are now some island chefs with firsthand experience and advice. Here are their stories. You know, just in case. The holidays are coming up after all.

The chefs:

  • Alan Wong, catered the APEC Leader’s Dinner for President Obama and 20 heads of state, as well as the larger 400 person reception on the Hale Koa lawn.
  • Ed Kenney of TOWN and Downtown, catered four dinners: the Senior Officials dinner at Washington Place, the Finance Ministerial Meeting hosted by Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Ministerial Meeting hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Shangri La and the APEC Spouses Lunch hosted by Michelle Obama at Kualoa Ranch.
  • Mark Noguchi, of Heeia Pier General Store and Deli, catered a dinner for the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak at a Diamond Head private home.

Wait, halal what?
Alan Wong: “You expect things to not go the way you planned them, you gotta be ready to turn on a dime. And so, plan B got used and plan C got used. On the day of the event, in the afternoon, we get all the dietary restrictions. The no-oil, the halal, the no-pork, the vegetarian, the et cetera. So small scramble there. It could have been given to us a lot earlier, yeah. But the afternoon of, that’s another story.”

Snipers and security? Whatever. It’s the health inspectors you need to worry about.
Alan Wong: “There are probably 10 board of health inspectors on Oahu; they gave us four of them. They gave it to us a few days before when we first started prepping for this. During the event they were probing, probing, checking temperatures. They’re doing their job, too. That added to the festivities. It wasn’t guns to your head. You knew the guns were there. It was the Board of Health inspectors with their probing needles at every turn.”

Don’t forget the support staff.
Ed Kenney: “The events themselves for the dignitaries are kind of small, but the dignitaries themselves travel with an entourage of security and support staff. It was really a small, intimate meeting with ministers of finance, at the same time we’re feeding 85 support staff. The same thing with Michelle Obama, we’re feeding the lunch for 12, while we had 100 support staff, feeding a buffet elsewhere.”

Expect a boycott.
Anti-APEC organizers Gaye Chan and Nandita Sharma boycotted APEC chefs’ restaurants. Noguchi says, “We agreed to disagree. There aren’t a whole lot of people who will take what they believe in to that measure. Gaye and Nandita said that the Pier and Downtown and Town are their favorite restaurants, [and they said] ‘We love you, but you’re not going to see us again.’”

Before you get too big for your chef pants, remember:
“Be attentive and invisible,” Kenney says. “We’re there to serve but not to be seen.”

Photo courtesy of Mark Noguchi

Vanilla budino

Sample of the menus served:

Mark Noguchi’s menu:

  • Chawanmushi, maitake, eggplant, miso
  • Grilled he‘e, tangerine, tomato, watercress
  • Tin Roof Ranch chicken two ways: hekka and satay
  • Hawaiian vanilla budino, chocolate crumble, cornflake

For the APEC Leader’s Dinner and reception, Wong says, “We featured all the farmers that we deal with. We kind of gave everyone a taste of Hawaii.” Of particular note were the welcome drinks of ginger ale, lemon, tea and honey from UH Hilo’s apiary.

A sample of the passed appetizers:

  • Local style Yellowfin Ahi Poke
  • Big Island Baby Abalone, Yuzu Miso
  • Ho Farms Tomato, Li Hing Dressing
  • Hanaoka Farms Lilikoi Shots on ice
  • Greek Sausage, Hoisin Sriracha yogurt
  • “Soup and Sandwich”, Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Kalua Pig, Chilled Hamakua Springs Vine Ripened Tomato Soup

Plated Dinner

  • Butter Poached Kona Cold Lobster
  • Soy Braised Short Ribs
  • Haupia Sorbet in a Chocolate Shell
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