McClinton, or Mac, is a KCC student that works with us part-time in our kitchen. At school, he is assigned to write reflections of his experiences learning and working in our kitchen, and he has given us permission to post his excerpts. Below is his first reflection from his first day as a cook at Alan Wong's Honolulu.
September 9, 2013
In the 4 days that I’ve been with Alan Wong’s Restaurant, I have learned, first of all, to have a notebook with me at all times. I knew I should have been prepared on the first day though. I came to work with no notebook; therefore I’ve lost many critical points that should have been written down on the spot. For example, before I began my first day, I was brought to the front line to taste a few fishes brought from the Vermont. Chef Wong and Chef Miya went on a trip and stopped by these fish markets, looked around, got a few fishes donated for free, brought back home and began the taste-testing. The whole idea was to try new things and experience new tastes. Some fishes I’ve tried (from what I remember) were sheep head, sole, bluefish, and I think heke. Each fish were prepared in different ways and had very distinct flavor profiles. The taste testing was to inspire a new dish to serve for the restaurant and to understand what places have to offer. That whole idea really gave me an idea of what Alan Wong’s is all about: it’s not a workplace, it’s like school again. I feel like every weekend I have class at Alan Wong’s, so pretty much I’m in school everyday.
There is always something new to learn there. Yesterday I learned how they emphasize their motif of “Hawaii Regional Cuisine” and what they try to embrace. It has already been mentioned in the Employer handbook but the implication was shown through what their walk-in carried. For example, they are in full support of the “Farm to Table” movement that is very critical to the restaurant. Alan Wong’s does their best to use local resources for most of their dishes. That shows that we don’t have to always rely on the mainland to give us produce that we need. Products that are available here on the island should be purchased here on the island. There is no need to spend the extra time and money transporting these already-available products to Hawaii. I have gotten the impression that they respect the local farmers and producers here, to make sure they go to them as their primary suppliers and then to the mainland if not available. Waimanalo and Nalo Farms are two of the many local sources that Alan Wong’s get their produce from. The restaurant stays connected to every local vendor on this island, if not, the outer islands so they can stay true to what they dish out that you can truly “Taste Hawai’i.”
I begin to gain a lot of appreciation for what all these local vendors do for us. It makes me think how much effort they put into what they grow, how they grow and why they do what they do. It brings the quality of the foods to a whole new standard and because the composition came from the islands, it embraces what the islands can offer. If I do get as far as managing my own restaurant, then I know for sure to stay local and support local the best I can. Alan Wong’s inspired me to love Hawaii and take advantage of what Hawaii has to offer.