chef-name: Alan Wong

Alan Wong is considered one of the godfathers of modern Hawaiian cuisine. He was part of the group of on-island chefs who, in the early 1980s, decided to erase the poor-food reputation in Hawaii and replace it with innovative, sustainable riffs on local favorites.

Born in Tokyo, Wong soon moved with his Japanese mother and half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese father to Hawaii. He worked on pineapple plantations but knew cooking was in his blood. He attended Kapiolani Community College, and worked at a number of restaurants on Hawaii and in Japan. Wong later worked at Lutece in New York City under GREAT CHEFS mentor André Soltner, who instilled the importance of being a skilled craftsman more than an artist.

Wong opened the Canoe House in the late 1980s and later opened his eponymous restaurant in Honolulu, which won the James Beard award for “Best Chef: Pacific” in 1996, one year after opening.

GREAT CHEFS caught up with Alan in 1994 at Le Soleil at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel where they taped several shows for GREAT CHEFS OF HAWAII. GREAT CHEFS returned in 1995 to Alan Wong’s Restaurant which he had opened that year.

Today Wong is one of the unofficial ambassadors of Hawaiian cuisine, having cooked for President Obama at the annual White House Congressional picnic in 2009 and earning a place on Gourmet magazine’s “Best Fifty Restaurants” list in 2001.