The Tastemakers

  • Chef Jon Yao from Kato Restaurant, LA

    Chef Jon Yao from Kato Restaurant, LA

  • New Zealand Salmon, Apple, Yogurt, Kale by Chef Matt Lambert

    New Zealand Salmon, Apple, Yogurt, Kale by Chef Matt Lambert

  • From L to R: Chefs Matt Lambert, Chris Kajioka, Mei Lin, Jon Yao

    From L to R: Chefs Matt Lambert, Chris Kajioka, Mei Lin, Jon Yao

With the autumn stars gently illuminating the Honolulu skyline, a handful of the country’s most progressive chefs recently gathered at Ward Village’s South Shore Market to prepare a trio of pop-up, six-course dinners that quickly became the talk of Town. Under the watchful eye of celebrity chef and Ward Village culinary director Chris Kajioka, the three-night-long event, dubbed the Pacific Plate, sought to connect three of the country’s leading culinary masterminds with Hawai‘i’s bounty of regional ingredients to create a truly unforgettable meal.

Held in the open-air kitchen at Scratch, those lucky enough to reserve seats at this special event were able to watch chefs Jon Yao of Kato, Los Angeles; Matt Lambert of The Musket Room, New York City; and Mei Lin of the fabled Nightshade, located in Los Angeles, work their magic. In collaboration with the inspired menu, guests were treated to dynamite drink pairings by the state’s leading mixologist, Justin Park of Bar Leather Apron. Each chef featured is keenly regarded for their unique regional palate and has been dubbed a rising star in the food world. “We had some of the most talented chefs in the country at this event, and I was so impressed by how they each worked with our local flavors to create something truly magical for our guests,” reflects Kajioka. “The guests were genuinely happy and excited and asked me if we could have these dinners more often. The chefs also had a great time experiencing the island through food and culture. They really came away impressed with Ward village and the local food scene.”

Chef Mei Lin, of the aforementioned Nightshade, created a gastronomic masterpiece with her homage to Korean and Texas barbecue. Her plating included black garlic wagyu short ribs, pickled vegetables, and a bonito habanero emulsion that was so delicious it left you weak in the knees—in fact, it’s no wonder that she walked away as the winner of Top Chef, Season 12. Matt Lambert, of the Michelin starred Musket Room, originally hails from New Zealand and created an out-of-this-galaxy preparation of New Zealand salmon paired with apple, yogurt, and kale, as well as a bevy of other tantalizing plates, including “Mince and Cheese” croquettes that left you craving more. Fellow Michelin star winner Jon Yao of restaurant Kato in Santa Monica created a spectacular presentation with his hysterical “If Chris were Chinese” preparation of onaga. One bite into the dish and you realize why Yao was chosen as a James Beard Finalist and labeled Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine recently.

As a local boy, acclaimed chef, and founder of highly regarded restaurant Senia, Chef Kajioka is at the cutting edge of the modern culinary movement and be credited with expanding the city’s collective palate and culinary horizons. From his perspective, with his deep connection to the city’s taste buds, Chef Kajioka fashions Hawai‘i, and Ward Village specifically, as being on the cusp of a culinary renaissance in the years to come. And if the success of the Pacific Plate is any indication of what’s to come, we’re all in for a treat.

“I knew that the event would be successful because the chefs I invited are all such professionals and students of their craft. There was no compromising. It was as if the guests were transported into his/hers restaurant.” As Ward Village seeks to cement itself as a culinary hub with big ambitions, the success of the Pacific Plate certainly serves as a savory and creative first courts. But be sure to save some room for what’s next, because there’s a whole lot more deliciousness in store.