Sam Choy was born in 1952 on the North Shore on the island of Oahu, in his hometown Laie, just a small fishing village. As a child, he helped his Dad prepare for big luaus that would attract up to 800 people at a time. His father is of Chinese ancestry and his mother is a local girl, born of Hawaiian and German ancestry. His father made sure that his children tasted the best in Chinese cooking. The other major factor in Sam’s cooking was his access to the freshest seafoods from the Pacific, the finest cuts of meats, as well as fruits and vegetables grown in local gardens.
Ironically, when the Great Chefs crew was on Kona taping Sam preparing a luau as a Great Chefs special, his father was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. Needless to say, Sam was a little distracted, and we have yet to release his Hawaiian Luau Special.
From those backyard luaus, Sam went on to work at the Kuilima Resorts, (Del Webb’s 1972-79 and the Hyatt 1979-82); the Waldorf Astoria in New York City (1984-85) and the Kona Hilton in Kailua-Kona (1985-91). He left his post at the Hilton as Executive Chef in 1985 to open his first of many restaurants, Sam Choy’s Diner. Great Chefs taped Sam at his first Diner in 1994 for their Great Chefs of Hawaii series where he prepared an appetizer and an entrée. Later, they returned to record two of his chefs (Robert Eng & Michael Longworth) at his Diamondhead restaurant for the Great Chefs of Hawaii series, and then Sam prepared another entrée for a new Great Chefs of the World series.
Sam has always given back, and has instructed at the University of Hawaii and Kapiolani Community College. He was a founding member of the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, as were most of the chefs who appeared on the Great Chefs of Hawaii television series. He has won, and continues to win many, many awards.
A great line from Sam Choy speaks for itself: “When someone asks me ‘What is Hawaii Regional Cuisine?’ I tell them it’s where East meets West in Hawaii”.