HELL'S KITCHEN . . . Maka Kwon, executive chef at Nick's Fish Market Maui, was selected from over 50 Hawaii entries to be a possible contestant on fiery Chef Gordon Ramsey's "Hell's Kitchen" on Fox.
Kwon passed the latest test when he was one of three finalists to appear on KHON's morning news program Friday where he prepared a dish for several judges. They picked him as the winner following an interview and tasting of his steamed onaga entry. The Maui chef was scheduled to fly to California Monday for a guaranteed personal meeting with Chef Gordon Ramsey, the next step in his quest to be a contestant on the popular television show. KHON producers told Kwon the show is looking for one contestant from Hawaii.
"The cooking was easy," said Kwon of the Hawaii competition. "The interview was hard."
To become one of the final three Hawaii contestants appearing on KHON Friday, Kwon had to first submit a personal "kitchen horror story." From the sound of his story, he should be ready to face Ramsey.
Kwon's experience happened seven or eight years ago when he was a chef at Sarento's on the Beach in Kihei. Corporate Executive Chef George Gomes Jr. gave him the drill sergeant treatment following a kitchen mishap.
"I burnt a fish and tried to hide it," said Kwon.
Gomes walked through the line, had a nose-to-nose confrontation with Kwon and stepped on the burnt fish, breaking the plate.
"I've never burnt a fish since then," he said.
When asked why he would want to subject himself to the potential tirades of Ramsey on national television, Kwon answered, "I'm used to humiliation."
Hot-headed chefs are something of a restaurant industry norm well documented in books like "Heat" by Bill Buford, and of course in television shows like the widely watched "Hell's Kitchen." Maybe it's the pressure of getting orders straight, striving for excellence, artistic temperaments, the noise, the heat, the help . . . all of these things and more may contribute to the outbursts that are well known to industry insiders and shocking to the uninitiated.
The rewards and experience make it a worthwhile challenge for Kwon. He has the opportunity to win a quarter-million dollars and run one of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants for one year. If he makes the cut, Kwon will appear in next season's "Hell's Kitchen."
CRAB CAKES . . . Customers who have grown to love the crab cakes at AK's Cafe on Lower Main Street in Wailuku advised Chef/owner Elaine Nakashima to package them for sale at a retail outlet. "Well, we have done just that and they are on sale at Cash and Carry in Kahului," said Nakashima. "They are packaged in six pieces for $11.99 exclusively at Cash and Carry and of course you can buy them for the same price at AK's Cafe."
MEAL DEALS . . . Lahaina Grill is offering a kama- 'aina special for dining at the bar at 6 p.m. every Sunday through Thursday. Receive 50 percent off entrees ordered at the bar with your valid Hawaii ID. Reservations are being accepted for the 6 p.m. bar seating . . . Gian Don's Italian Bistro in Kihei is offering two-for-one weekend specials for breakfast and dinner. A two-for-one special dinner menu is available from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There's also a two-for-one $5.95 breakfast special served until 2 p.m. . . . The Kahului Ale House has live Hawaiian music from 8 to 10 p.m. every Saturday in conjunction with a $13.95 prime rib special that includes potato and salad.
* Carla Tracy is dining editor of Maui Scene. Rich Van Scoy has been compiling this column during her vacation. Her column will return next week. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.