Shopping Locally & Menu Writing

For most of my career in restaurants the way food is procured is by placing a call at the end of the evening. There is an organized alphabetized list of every staple and even some exotic ingredients available and they will be uniform in size, shape, etc. and be at your doorstep before you arrive the next day. Sounds like a great system but it doesn't deliver the level of quality and personal touch every great Chef I've ever known desires.

The quest for local ingredients began as just that a way to find better quality and in-turn produce better food. Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you look at it in order to buy high quality ingredients there needs to be a personal interaction and story of who, what, when, where and even why. These interactions take time and are like any other relationship filled with variables and these interactions have become a huge inspiration for myself and Chef partner Adam.

Our week begins with a discussion not even about the menu most times (in the month we've been open) but about life interests and larger goals. We are relaxed and excited and ready to be inspired. We go to the Wednesday market in Kapaa and start walking the strip with a few hundred dollars to invest in our menu and those who grew it.

Once we finish at market we return to our home base Java Kai and begin sorting, cleaning and talking about what we have. We find that these four things seem like a good base for shrimp and these 8 items would make a great dish on their own. We continue until we have nothing left on the table and that's how we write our menu.

It's viewed as a constant work in progress and allows us to take risks that most can't when putting their menu in print for the next year. The items that are created strive for deliciousness first flowed by beauty, contrast, balance and sense of place.

These were ideas that have been explored in classic and modern cooking but not in Hawaii in this way to our knowledge and certainly not utilizing only locally grown ingredients. We have been told that this wouldn't be a viable menu to run due to it's ever-changing nature. We have now proved to ourselves that it is viable and sustainable by remaining within industry standard cost % with happy paying guests growing each week.