Roy’s Hawaii Kai – Birthplace of Hawaii Regional Cuisine

Tokyo to New York

thWhile he grew up in Tokyo, Roy Yamaguchi’s Hawaiian roots can be traced to his Hawaiian-born father and his grandfather who once operated a tavern in Wailuku, Maui. After graduating from high school Roy enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York City where he mastered the traditions of European cuisine. It was this unique mix of Japanese, Hawaiian and European cooking influences that would come to define his singular culinary style.

LA to Hawaii Kai

In 1988, Yamaguchi, along with his young family moved to Hawaii. Fresh from being named California Chef of the Year and with experience from opening his first restaurant, 385 North, in Hollywood, he chose Honolulu to launch his eponymous restaurant, Roy’s. The location, in the exclusive neighborhood of Hawaii Kai overlooking the glistening waters of Maunalua Bay is still home to the original Roy’s. It was here that he developed his own signature blend of Asian inspired cuisine using local Hawaiian ingredients.

Proving Grounds

Over more than 25 years the original Roy’s has served as the proving ground for many of Yamaguchi’s culinary ideas. Original favorites from the 1988 menu, like the Canoe for Two, stuffed with Pacific Rim inspired appetizers or “pupus”, the Macadamia Nut-Crusted Mahi Mahi and the always delectable chocolate soufflé, better known as Roy’s Molten Lava Cake, have become fixtures on the menu at many of Roy’s 30 locations. Even with his rock solid reputation, Chef Roy continues to evolve and expand his menu today, regularly adding new items and adding more fresh local ingredients to his existing recipes.

Hawaii Regional Cuisine

In 1991, Roy Yamaguchi was one of the original 12 chefs that met to form a nonprofit group to promote Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Drawing on their diverse ethnic cooking traditions, chefs including Sam Choy, Peter Merriman, Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi sought to establish Hawaii cuisine as its own distinct culinary style. Trading imported ingredients and “mainland” recipes for bountiful fresh produce, fish and farm products from Hawaii these chefs used their unique hybrid of ethnic Asian and Hawaiian style cooking to create something totally new. Hawaiian Regional Cuisine soon caught the attention of the world’s culinary community. Enthusiastic food lovers followed and Hawaii Regional Cuisine is now recognized around the world.

Local Grown

Roy Yamaguchi and the original Roy’s restaurant in Hawaii Kai have played a major role in the development of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. The group’s efforts have been successful in moving Hawaii’s visitor and food services industry away from exclusively imported food products and helped local producers expand and grow their business. Thanks to chefs like Roy Yamaguchi there is now a greater variety of locally produced foods available than ever before. From Hamakua mushrooms to macadamia fed wild boar sausage, you’ll find many of these unique and delicious treats at the original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai.