Inside HONOLULU: Not Really Goodbye

It’s not really leaving when you’re still in the same office.
Lee Anne Wong and Catherine Toth Fox
I’m fortunate to call many chefs friends, including Lee Anne Wong, whom I took surfing before she even moved here.
Photos: Courtesy of Catherine Toth Fox


It’s hard to say I’ve left HONOLULU Magazine when I moved literally 13 desks away. (I counted.)


Catherine Toth Fox
PHOTO: gary saito

​And, honestly, a part of me will never leave the magazine I started writing for more than a decade ago, when my mentor, the late John Heckathorn, was at its helm.


In fact, you might say I’m taking this mentor thing a bit too far. Not only did I step into the role he created—and one that could never be replicated—as food editor at HONOLULU, but I followed him as editor of HAWAI‘I Magazine. What can I say: John has been—and will always be—one of the biggest influences on my career and life.


But the last three years at HONOLULU is nothing John could have prepared me for. Sure, I knew the job would be a lot of work—writing for some of the savviest diners about some of the most talented chefs and bakers, and in competition with some of the most hardworking food writers around—and I knew the demands for food writing had evolved. It wasn’t enough to just write a detailed review of a new restaurant or a profile on a notable chef. I had to stay on top of food trends, write about failing businesses and know everything about the entire food chain—all while taking perfectly composed and well-lit photos for social media. It wasn’t easy.


But man, was it gratifying. I got to eat the best food in the Islands, from multicourse dinners prepared by the buzziest chefs to the legit local grub I grew up with. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find more dedicated, assiduous, passionate, kind and hilarious people than those in the food industry.


It’s been a fun ride. I shadowed hotel chefs at 3 a.m. as they prepared breakfast for thousands of guests. For a Biting Commentary blog, I ate raw chicken—yes, raw—at a secret Japanese restaurant that has since opened to the public, and I didn’t get sick. And I ate more than 30 desserts from local bakeries (February 2019), all in the name of journalism.


My first cover story for HONOLULU wasn’t even about food. It was about ghosts (October 2015).


While getting to know these folks was an inspiring part of my job, what really kept me here for three years was everyone I never wrote about.


The talented art team that works longer hours than anyone else in the office. The photographers and stylists who are the real reason people pick up the magazine. The editors who make sure what’s in our pages is worthy of our readers. The writers who truly love what they do.


You don’t see how much of a family we are, how we argue and hug, cry and complain. I’ve never worked in a place where my co-workers left little gifts on my desk without occasion or wrote me thoughtful cards when I’ve had a rough day.


And then there are the Millennials who adopted this Gen-Xer. They’re blissfully optimistic, unabashedly honest and always down to have fun. These are the people you’d want with you in the car when you’re stuck in traffic.


And while I’ll miss them all—particularly Katrina Valcourt, our managing editor, who impresses me with her work ethic, editing chops and baking skills while simultaneously shocking me with her chef crushes, book choices and what she considers exercise—the only thing that keeps me from bawling at my desk is the fact that I still see them every day.


Because, like any family, these folks are forever. Or at least 13 desks away.


Read more HONOLULU stories by Catherine Toth Fox, including her first cover story about ghosts.