Hawaii Rising Star Chefs "How to Make It" panel

Photos courtesy of StarChefs
From left to right: Quinten Frye, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, David Newman, Mark Noguchi, Jojo Vasquez

Starchefs, a national restaurant industry online magazine, recently named a handful of Hawaii chefs as Rising Stars. One, Andrew Le, tours the farmers’ market circuit, while another, Jojo Vasquez, is the executive chef at The Plantation House, at one Maui’s most luxurious resorts. They, among the other Rising Star chefs, will share their paths on the “How to Make It” panel at KCC next Monday. Clearly, given the range of experiences by the chefs, “making it” is defined very broadly.

A common thread among the chefs though? A willingness to make mistakes, a thirst for learning, and as with anything, hard work.

Some thoughts from the Rising Star Chefs:

 “A couple of things are quite obvious: educating yourself, hard work, and dedication. But I think one of the most important things is to be resilient. This is a very difficult industry to strive in and you will need thick skin to survive.”
– Quinten Frye, Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar

“I don't think I ‘have made it’ yet because life is an on-going life process. Everyday I feel that I will learn something new, and that is what makes this industry so wonderful. However, through desire, dedication, and persistence I have helped to achieve my goals that I have set for myself. My next goal is to hopefully win a James Beard award one day. I came to Alan Wong's not knowing how to cook, but it was my attitude and professionalism that has helped me to achieve what I set forth for myself.” 
– Michelle Karr-Ueoka, Alan Wong’s

Contacts, contacts, contacts. It goes without saying that you should treat everyone that comes into your bar with the utmost respect, but there is more to it than that. A lot of bartenders say that each patron could be a regular. I think it’s better to treat everyone as a regular and your regulars like family. Beyond that you really can never tell when or how you will do business with these people in the future. We are all trying to move forward whether its bar back to bartender, busser to server or maybe its food blogger to editor of the local newspaper. Point being someone you meet, might somewhere down the road be the person that gives your career a big boost. I know that this has been the case for me many times in the past. I never really thought about it this way, but in hindsight I know that these friendships paid dividends I never even considered possible. Bottom line is that customer service should be your main priority in this industry. Many in the industry have gotten away from this and it’s unfortunate. You can teach anyone to make classic cocktail recipes, but teaching people how to be genuinely service oriented is much more difficult.  I think for a lot of people their egos get in the way.”
– Dave Newman, Pint + Jigger

“Remember that you can learn from everybody, from your sous chef to the dishwasher. Professional cooking in a kitchen is a TEAM SPORT, however you constantly need to PUSH… YOURSELF."
Mark Noguchi, Pili Hawaii Catering, TASTE

"These are things that I tell my team when I know that they can do better:
….dare to inspire.
….be true to your craft.
….improve and innovate.
….create dining experiences.
….show the best of you everyday.
– Jojo Vasquez, The Plantation House Restaurant

How to Make It panel, Monday, December 3 at 10:30 a.m. at KCC Ohia Building, Room 118. RSVP required: http://starchefs.ticketleap.com/2012-hawaii-rising-stars-how-to-make-it-panel-/

Also, don’t forget the StarChefs gala: $95/$125 VIP, which includes a private reception. 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 4 at Halekulani. Tickets available at starchefs.com/cook/events/rising-stars/2012/hawaii

[HONOLULU Magazine is a sponsor of the Hawaii Rising Stars event]