Hale Aina Chefs: Master Class
We talked with 10 chefs and had them answer a few of life's little cooking questions.
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Hawaii has an unusual density of amazing chefs and world-class restaurants. Ever fantasized about asking some of these chefs for a little help in your own kitchen? We have, so we talked story with 10 of our Hale Aina Award-winning chefs and had them answer a few of life’s little cooking questions.
PLATE A MEAL LIKE A PRO
With everyone focusing now on fresh, simple, local and unfussy, plating a beautiful meal has gotten easier. Here’s how to make a meal on a plate look as good as it tastes.
Garnish with edibles that will taste good with the meal. Kevin Chong, chef de cuisine at Chef Mavro, says, "Don't put anything on the plate that you can't eat." He likes to garnish Asian or Spanish-influenced dishes with cilantro.
Ed Kenney, who owns the Hale Aina Award-winning restaurants Town and Downtown @ the HISAM, suggests the rule of thirds ("12 o'clock/4 o'clock/8 o'clock") to make a meal look satisfying to the eye.
Go for "color contrast," says Russell Siu, co-owner and executive chef at 3660 On The Rise, which prepared this dish for us. The restaurant has won numerous Hale Aina awards. If the dish itself isn't colorful, reach for a colorful garnish.
TAKING THE SPICE ROUTE
Familiar herbs and spices with surprising applications.
Usual habitat: rye bread.
Expanding its range: radish and caraway soup.
Caraway’s slight licorice-flavor bite pairs surprisingly well with the clean pepperiness of a radish, says Kenney. He teams radish and caraway, adding onions, cream, stock and a toasted rye-bread crumb garnish for a warming soup. A squeeze of lemon, added last, brightens the flavor and turns the soup a pastel pink.
Usual habitat: ume plums.
Expanding its range: pan-fried with fish.
We know shiso as the tart, distinctive flavoring of ‘ume, the Japanese pickled plum found in the middle of musubi. Ronald Nasuti, executive chef of Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai (Hale ‘Aina 2010 Restaurant of the Year), suggests pressing shiso leaves into a piece of firm, raw fish before seasoning and pan-frying. “When you cook it, it binds the shiso” to the fish, says Nasuti, and the result is a revelation. It looks beautiful, says Nasuti: “You know pressed flowers in a book? That’s the effect.”
Usual habitat: Stuffing.
Expanding its range: Zucchini con salvia
Maybe it takes an Italian to know that the dusky scent of sage can do more than accompany the Thanksgiving turkey. Sergio Mitrotti, executive chef at perennial Hale ‘Aina Italian favorite Café Sistina, says that sage and zucchini bring out the best in each other: “Sage and zucchini, they live together.” Mitrotti sautés medallions of zucchini with salt and pepper, and then adds a sprinkling of fresh chopped sage toward the end of cooking.