Jean-Georges Vongerichten In A Kauai State Of Mind
Celebrated NYC uber chef Jean-George and local chef Colin Hazama team up at the Kauai Grill
Hazama picked up flourishes from Spice Market, with its Southeast Asian street food and JoJo—mostly contemporary American bistro fare with slight Asian touches—but solidified his base at Jean Georges, the restaurant awarded three Michelin stars and four stars by the New York Times. There, “I was taught the foundations, the discipline, the organization, how to work with food, how to work with product,” Hazama says. In the East Coast kitchens, Hazama says strong spices and seasonings are utilized, “but they tend to really highlight the natural flavor of produce and vegetables, fruits and proteins.”
Back in Hawaii, Hazama worked with Vongerichten and the corporate chef to create dishes that showed-off Hawaii’s natural bounty and tweaked classic Vongerichten dishes to substitute local ingredients for their mainland counterparts. From little things, like substituting long beans for asparagus in a chili-mint lamb entree and using fresh lilikoi in a souffle to replacing a protein in a signature dish—sea-bass crusted with seeds and nuts—with moi, a similarly rich and fatty fish. For a tomato salad, Hazama uses Hamakua tomatoes, Wailea Ag Group heart of palm braised in local coconut water, and finishes the plate with Kauai Fresh Farms’ microbasil and coconut water reduced for a vinaigrette—a dish that’s almost entirely composed of local ingredients.
Hazama developed relationships with local farmers by seeking them out at markets. “Some of them grow products for me,” Hazama says. He rattles off some of the specialty produce: baby chiogga beets, baby red beets, a variety of avocado that he describes as “really rich in flavor”, which goes on top of a bacon-wrapped shrimp appetizer.
“There’s a lot of great product on Kauai; it’s just never really been discovered,” Hazama says. “I think because it’s a smaller community and smaller island, [farms]…don’t have a lot of restaurants that will consistently be able to buy their product, or farms may not be able to provide for restaurants. It’s tough when you have a hotel restaurant and you need a large bulk of product.” Though Kauai Grill is within the St. Regis Princeville, it doesn’t deal with the large number of covers that other hotel restaurants might. As a result, “it’s kind of unique to be able to work with some of the farms,” says Hazama.
Comments from Readers
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