Food Talk: A James Beard Award Winner


The 2022 James Beard Awards have recently been named. A judging form to evaluate nominees is distributed to all restaurant and chef subcommittee members and tasting panelists who visit restaurants in their area and rate their experiences on a number of criteria.

“The mission of the James Beard Awards is to recognize outstanding talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media and broader food systems, as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equality , community, sustainability and a culture where all can thrive. .”

The top chef for the Northwest and the Pacific, which includes Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, is Robynne Maii of Fete of Chinatown, Honolulu.

“I didn’t dream of the James Beard award because I thought it was unachievable. The awards have changed drastically on who usually wins – when I first opened Fete, I didn’t have a New York pedigree. I’m so off the radar. It’s not that I don’t care about social media or advertising. I can’t get it together. Every ounce of my time is spent on food production. And it’s very important to me that the cooks see how things are done. I really admire people who can get on TV, but I just think that’s out of my kitchen. And I love being in the kitchen. This is my happy place. We do a little TV, but I have to feel good. But the James Beard was not on my mind. It’s so unexpected. I’m not trying to feign modesty. For me, that’s totally true.

“When my name was named the winner, I felt like when I first started dancing in hula competitions, time both went too slow and then it went too fast. You anticipate, anticipate, anticipate and then finally it happens and then I know it sounds really cliche but it’s like an out of body experience ’cause you hear your name and you only know them because your husband is screaming that it’s actually happening I haven’t prepared anything to say because I’m a bit superstitious and also feel like people don’t usually win the first time they’re nominated.

“The title of best chef makes me very uncomfortable. So I wanted to make sure everyone understood that Fete is due to so many people – the investors, the staff, our suppliers, our bankers, our accountant. All of them.” Chief Maii said during an interview with Honolulu Magazine.

My son Reid made reservations for my birthday lunch at Fete. It is on a corner, at 2 North Hotel Street, in a red brick building. The menu emphasizes market fish and market vegetables.

We started with the Fete spread of caponata, macadamia nut tapenade and homemade ricotta with a drizzle of honey. It is served with toasted homemade sourdough bread. Caponata is made with eggplant. All three spreads were tasty, but the toast was a bit burnt.

The special salad of the day was a beet salad, served with caramelized onions, over curly greens, fresh beets and half an avocado. The dressing was light and flavorful.

We also ordered onion rings, with a light and delicate tempura batter. It was very tasty and even enjoyed by my grandson.

For entrees, we ordered the Chaz Burger, which is an 8-ounce grass-fed Kauai Ranch patty with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, and garlic aioli. roast; Fete grilled cheese sandwich with homemade sourdough bread, cheddar cheese, smoked mozzarella, provolone and tomato jam; carbonara with slice of bacon, Portuguese sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; JP’s risotto with local mushrooms, local onsen egg, blistered green garlic and peas.

The Chaz burger was juicy and tasty.

The Fete grilled cheese sandwich was a bit too fancy for my 7 year old grandson Quentin as he is more used to a simpler version.

He also doesn’t like mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Adding the tomato jam made the sandwich taste like a pizza sandwich.

He ate the fries though.

I ordered the JP risotto on a recommendation from Gary McKoy of Hawaiian Airlines, who was there the night before. Her recommendation was perfect as the risotto was delicious and a wow!

When you crack the onsen (soft cooked) egg, the creaminess of the yolk, mixed with the risotto, was such a great combination!

Email Audrey Wilson at [email protected].


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