Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Roy Yamaguchi took a home economics class in high school, not knowing it would lead to a lifetime of culinary discoveries. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York’s Hyde Park, where he was exposed to classical traditions. In 1984, he opened his first restaurant in Hollywood called 385 North. However, the desire to further expand his culinary horizons while getting closer to his roots led Roy to open his first Roy’s in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1988. One of his major contributions to American cooking has been helping to develop and popularise Hawaiian regional cuisine.
Q&A Roy Yamaguchi
Describe the Pacific: Natural beauty
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with? Palm sugar.
What is your favourite regional dish? Tripe stew with a side of Naau Puaa (pork chitterlings and taro leaf stew).
What tasty bite should travellers to the Pacific not miss? Laulau (a dish with taro leaves, salted butterfish and pork wrapped around ti leaves and steamed) with poi (a Polynesian staple made from the corn of the taro plant) and lomi salmon (taro leaves, salted butterfish and pork steamed and served with tomato, salmon and green onions).
What inspires you about your region? The rich natural and cultural history of our islands inspires me. From the lava that spews from the volcanoes, to the roaring surf, to the rainbows and waterfalls, and the snow-like, white-sand beaches of Maui, I am inspired every day.
What inspires you about your work? The work I do is a reflection of what I experience in my day-to-day life here and the Aloha spirit that thrives among our people and in our community.
What’s your favourite place to visit in the US? Pebble Beach, California.
Where is your favourite city to eat in the US? Los Angeles, California.
Who/What inspired you to become a chef? My grandfather owned a restaurant in the 1940s on Maui, and my Dad loved to cook.
How are you inspired by your environment and the seasonal foods in the US? Hawaii has a bounty of local fruits, produce, seafood and meat from our land and sea – all within miles from my home and restaurants. With Hawaii's natural beauty, how can you not be inspired?
How has American culture shaped the way you cook? Freedom to be inspired to create!
What international influences have inspired your cooking? I've travelled to 40 countries around the world. To learn their culture and cuisine inspires me to create.
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