Roy Yamaguchi | chef | Hawaii | New York | Honolulu
Eating And Drinking With Roy Yamaguchi
by Anthony Dias Blue
6600 Kalanaianaole Hwy.
Chefs have become our latest genre of superstars. That much is a
fact. But I've often wondered why chefs should be singled out for
superstardom more than, say, auto mechanics or CPAs. Why shouldn't
there be a television show called Iron Dentist, in which three oral
surgeons compete to perform the fastest root canals and most
elaborate bridgework? I guess chefs get the nod because cooking is
sexy, while rebuilding transmissions, analyzing balance sheets, and
pulling teeth aren't.
Among the hottest of today's superstar chefs is Roy Yamaguchi.
Aside from starring in his own PBS television series, Hawaii Cooks,
where for seven seasons he's shared Hawaiian culture and cuisine
with the rest of us, Yamaguchi also gets to rub shoulders with top
Hollywood movie- and music-biz celebrities - he's cooked alongside
Kevin Costner in Aspen (where the leading man played sous-chef and
nearly flambéed his own goatee off). Yamaguchi was also drafted to
cook, along with Roy's New York chef James Dangler, for one of this
year's Grammy Awards after-parties.
The son of a career military man from Maui and his Okinawan wife,
Yamaguchi was brought up in a tricultural milieu - part Japanese,
part Hawaiian, and part mainstream American. He was born in Tokyo
and lived there until the age of 17. His grandfather owned a tavern
in Wailuku, Maui, and the young Yamaguchi spent time discovering
the bounty of Hawaiian seafood on visits there with his parents.
When he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park,
New York, he got his first exposure to French classical
After graduation, he opted for a laid-back Southern California
lifestyle - if professional cooking can ever be considered
laid-back. He took an apprenticeship at L'Ermitage in Los Angeles
with chef Jean Bertranou, whom Yamaguchi thinks of to this day as
his mentor. "I learned more there in two and a half years than I
could have anywhere else."
Roy's own eclectic style of cooking finally came into bloom in 1984
when he opened his first restaurant, 385 North, on La Cienega
Boulevard in West Hollywood. Combining Californian, French,
Japanese, and Hawaiian flavors seemed perfectly natural to
Yamaguchi, who considered his cooking at the time "the next
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