Jacqueline Lau was raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and graduated from culinary school in California in 1988. She went to Hawaii for a brief vacation and enjoyed it so much, she decided to stay and got a job as a prep cook. When a broiler cook quit, she volunteered to fill in. The chef told her “no, you are a woman”, at which time she gave him her two weeks’ notice and quit.
Great Chef Roy Yamaguchi had just moved back from Los Angeles and opened his new restaurant, Roy’s Hawaii Kai, and Jacqueline applied for a job. She started as a pastry chef, and became adept at all phases of Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. By mid-1992, she was Yamaguchi’s first chef de cuisine, responsible for 25 new dishes a night. He was so impressed that he sent her to open his restaurant in Tokyo, and later Guam.
In 1993, he awarded Chef Jacqueline, at the age of 23, the executive chef position at Roy’s Nicolina on Maui. A year later, in 1994, the Great Chefs television crew showed up to tape Chef Lau at Nicolina for the Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs of Hawaii.
She has stayed with Roy Yamaguchi and has ascended to the post of highest ranking chef in Yamaguchi’s Hawaii operations as Corporate Chef for Hawaii, where she remains today in 2016.