Saturday was an inspiring day for me. 

A day that was filled with learning and fun; what really stood out for me though was the rekindling of a feeling that sometimes gets buried amidst everyday life.  Perhaps it’s better that I try to describe what I felt as a collection of emotions; emotions that make a person feel as if he or she is doing something that could contribute, in some small way, to someone else’s success. 

How does one put into words what something like that feels like? A wide array of descriptions come to mind…Hopeful?  Delighted?  Overjoyed?  Reassured?  Reinvigorated?  Encouraged?  Serene?

I would have to say, all of the above.

This past weekend, James Aung, known affectionately to us as Burma (where he’s from), one of our cooks here at Alan Wong’s Honolulu was faced with the daunting task of preparing a tasting menu for a group of people that included none other than Chef Alan Wong, Vice President of Development Leigh Ito, Chef de Cuisine Miya Nishimura, Pastry Chef Vivian Wu, Wine Director Mark Shishido, Restaurant Managers Jordan Mossman and Thomas Thankachan and myself.  Not a murderer’s row of food critics but discerning palates nonetheless.

What was amazing about this day for me was that James was able to create dishes that were outstanding in flavor, eye catching, impactful, most definitely HRC and stayed true to his own identity.  He never lost sight of who he was or where he came from.  It was a true testament to his hard work, time energy and effort that he put into himself and the restaurant from when he first started until now.  Along the way he has accepted criticism, guidance and instruction and become a better person and culinarian.  The coaching and mentoring he experienced here is beginning to come full circle and bear fruit. 

It was comparable to when a parent sees his child graduate…when they are walking across the stage to accept their diploma all you feel is pride and you remember the work, blood, sweat and tears that you both put forth to get to that point.  The rekindled spirit of a teacher and an “a-ha” moment of why we do what we do was never in sharper focus for me than it was this day.  Although I was not directly involved in James’ culinary development, I couldn’t help but feel like the proud parent I spoke of earlier.  I can only imagine how Chef and Miya must have felt this afternoon at the end of the tasting.

All I can say is, thank you for today Burma.  I learned a lot.

When people ask me “What’s new at Alan Wong’s?”, I answer it this way: “Everything and Nothing”.  Everything because we have new people who are stepping up and putting themselves out there with their ideas, dishes and creativity.  Nothing because developing people is what we’ve always done and what we’ll always do.  You want to know what’s new?  Come and see for yourself.  

~ Kerry Ichimasa, General Manager at Alan Wong's Honolulu