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Chef Interviews

Born in Tokyo, chef Roy Yamaguchi was inspired by the Hawaiian flavors his family incorporated into family meals. The creator of what he calls “Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine”, Yamaguchi, who moved to Hawaii in 1988, mingles Hawaii’s abundance of fresh, local ingredients with French and Japanese flavors to create dishes that are simultaneously vibrant and sophisticated, while hinting at the traditional.

Asian Star TV sat At The Table with this cookbook author, television personality, and owner of the renowned, eponymous string of “Roy’s” eateries, to find out how he keeps cool and heats thing up in the kitchen (and the backyard!) to get the very most out of summer.

EBS: You recently, in partnership with Anheuser-Busch, offered a special food and beer pairing menu at your restaurant. Did you create the menu first and then pair beers with your dishes, or design the menu around the beer?

YAMAGUCHI: It was a combination. I made a menu first of the food items that I enjoy and thought I would enjoy making and eating, and then when Anheuser-Busch gave me the list of beers, I selected a few that I thought would be really great with food. Once we tasted the beers, we thought about the types of flavors that would compliment the beer. This is not my first time doing a beer pairing. I enjoy drinking beer.

EBS: What are your favorite beers?

YAMAGUCHI: I really enjoy drinking the Michelob Honey Lager that Anheuser-Busch puts out. I think that’s a terrific beer. You can drink it with food, or alone. It’s a sweeter beer so, naturally, something spicy is a good contrast. I enjoy it with barbecue. Especially with babyback ribs!

EBS: What are your favorite summertime dishes?

YAMAGUCHI: All I do is barbecue when I’m at home. I do simple things. I enjoy barbecuing ribs, which I’ll marinate in butter, granulated garlic, white wine vinegar and Hawaiian salt. Marinate the ribs for a few hours and then just grill it, slowly, so that I can get more smoke and get the flavor of the wood. Or I’ll do my own teriyaki with ribeyes, which I enjoy more than any other steak. I marinate that in my own teriyaki, or I do one with my own sweet and savory rub that has Hawaiian salt, peppercorn, garlic, lemon zest, parsley and more herbs. I like doing chicken also with granulated garlic and butter, Hawaiian salt, lemongrass and ginger

If you use a stronger wood when you smoke something at a lower temperature, there’s a big difference in flavor because the woody flavor gets infused into the meat itself.

EBS: You’re known for pioneering Hawaiian fusion cuisine. What inspired you?

YAMAGUCHI: Basically, my type of cooking comes from my childhood memories of my father’s cooking. His meals used the flavors of what Hawaiian cuisine was when he was growing up. Be it soy sauce or wasabi or tomato flavored beef stews. I’ve taken the root of what he made at our dining room table and incorporated a lot of the bold Asian flavors that I discovered when I traveled through Asia. I actually started working at a French restaurant in the late 70s, early 80s, and then when I started on my own, I incorporated the French sauces with the old Asian flavors. In Hawaii, we use a lot of seafood; it’s a very integral part of our menu. Also, there is a high quality of ingredients being grown here; the produce, the herbs. So [Hawaiian fusion is] bold Asian flavors, French sauces, utilizing fresh fish and fresh, local produce.

EBS: We thought that ‘fusion’ was a considered a four-letter word!

YAMAGUCHI: People used to say that ‘fusion’ was a no-no word, but when you really think about what fusion is, fusion is what this world is made out of! It’s cross-cultural. Even in certain cultures, there has always been fusion, a mix. People go from place to place, and bring their own cooking, and then things start to change. People travel throughout the world and bring something and take away something. There has always been this fusion going on. It is a natural progression in life and it continues into the modern age.

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