The direct flight to Honolulu is more than 10 hours long, but on Friday, June 19, chef Jon Matsubara will transport guests there in just one meal. Matsubara, a Jean-Georges and Bouley alum, is bringing the modern flavors of his restaurant Japengo and his home state of Hawaii to the James Beard House. We spoke to him about his current favorite ingredients, biggest culinary inspiration, and his secret reality TV dreams.
What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why?
I’m excited about all of them. They are all a collection of past experiences. Every dish has had an impact on my life, and offers a taste of the Hawaiian Islands, using pristine ingredients from our local sources.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
Dan Barber. He’s an intellect who can articulate the most basic connections between ingredients, food, and people.
Is there an ingredient that you just can’t get enough of right now?
Kauai amaebi—the most sweet and creamy local shrimp.
Tell us about the last great meal you ate.
On New Year’s Day, my entire family participated in cooking traditional good luck dishes. There was everything I needed to satisfy my soul.
It's probably tough for you to find time to dine out, but where do you like to eat in your city these days?
Alicia’s Market: dozens of poke, Hawaiian food, roast duck, roast pork, smoked prime rib, pasteles, tripe, kalbi. It's a must-visit spot in Hawaii.
What’s your dream destination for food travel, and why?
Singapore, to experience the hawkers’ stands.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
You must give up who you are for what you can become.
If you weren't in the culinary industry, what else do you think you'd be doing?
I'd be the lead mechanic on MTV's Pimp My Ride.
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