Local Chef Gives James Beard Members the Royal Treatment

Chef Shaymus Alwin of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is invited to cook at the prestigious house in New York City, but you can sample the menu first.
Chef Shaymus Alwin of Azure Restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel has been invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House next month. But you can sample the menu on Sept. 1 at the resort’s hotel.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox


The renowned James Beard House in New York City hosts dinners, lunches, brunches and workshops just about every day, helmed by some of the country’s best chefs.


And it’s not easy to be selected. Chefs have to be recommended by other chefs or members and meet certain criteria including national or regional reputation and the known use of high-quality, seasonal and local ingredients, and have demonstrated excellence in a particular discipline.


Then that chef's proposed menu and wine list need to be approved, and the type of cuisine has to fit the foundation’s schedule to ensure an adequate mix.


It’s a process.


After months of discussions, four menu revisions and a lot of support from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Hawaiian Airlines and Southern Wines and Spirits, Azure Restaurant’s chef Shaymus Alwin is going to serve a special Hawai‘i-inspired dinner at the James Beard House on Sept. 9. He’s the only chef from O‘ahu to be invited to create a dinner here this year. (Maui’s Isaac Bancaco was a featured chef at the house earlier this year.)


For those of us who can’t afford the $175 ticket—or a last-minute flight to New York City—good news: Alwin will be serving the same dishes at a special James Beard House preview dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1 at Azure.


The Sept. 1 menu will feature a taste of what Alwin will be serving in New York—the event is called The Royal Treatment—including Kona kampachi and caviar, Keāhole lobster with brioche, truffle-scented Jerusalem artichoke vichyssoise and Kaua‘i shrimp, and Hawai‘i Ranchers rib eye with marrow-potato dauphine. Cost is $120 per person, $160 with wine pairings.


“My concept is going to be the journey of my career and places I’ve been,” says Alwin, who hails from Kennebunkport, Maine, and has been working at The Royal Hawaiian for six years. (He’s cooked in Hawai‘i for 16. You might remember him from now-defunct The Bistro at Century Center, a restaurant he helped open and close.) “It’s a lot of Asian-inspired dishes, melding [Maine and Hawai‘i] together, but elevated to a James Beard level.”


One of the dishes Alwin will be serving at the James Beard House is this crispy-skinned ‘onaga with Hirabara Farms radishes, Hāmākua maitake mushrooms, Kahuku corn croquette and a foie gras dashi.


Being invited is an honor; the rest is a lot of work. Chefs who cook at the James Beard House do so at their own expense. They have to cover the costs of food and drinks, travel and lodging and workforce. (The dinners benefit the foundation, which aims to celebrate, nurture and preserve America’s culinary heritage and future.)


Alwin and his team, which includes executive sous chef Jeremy Shigekane and executive pastry chef Carolyn Tada Portuondo, have to ship most of their ingredients to New York, sending some—namely, the ‘onaga and Kona kampachi—overnight and supplying all the wine for 80 guests.


SEE ALSO: How Carolyn Tada Portuondo Went From Toxicologist to Cake Master


What’s nice is the menu features a lot of Hawai‘i farms including greens from Hirabara Farms in Kamuela, maitake mushrooms from Hāmākua Mushrooms and vanilla from Hawaiian Vanilla Co. in Pa‘auilo on Hawai‘i Island.


“Hawai‘i is an important part of America’s culinary scene and, after receiving chef Alwin and Azure’s menu and wine list, we knew they’d be an excellent fit to help us celebrate this country’s cuisine,” says Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming for the James Beard House.


For more information or for reservations, call 923-7311 or visit azurewaikiki.com.


Join us for a starlight soiree celebrating the culinary stars of this year’s Hale ‘Aina Awards! Dine on dishes from 12 top restaurants while sipping on cocktails and enjoying amazing entertainment, all under the stars at the luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel. For more information, click here.