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Did this:’s Rising Stars gala

It’s not so much the food. It’s that a new generation is putting Hawaii back on the culinary map

Posted December 5, 2012 by Mari Taketa brought its star power to Hawaii Tuesday night, shining the spotlight on a new-generation crop of 13 chefs and one mixologist at a tasting gala that sold out at $95 a ticket. All were picked from a field of more than 60 and christened Rising Stars, not only for excelling in Hawaii’s restaurant industry, according to, but for “defining it with exciting cuisine, pours, and culinary concepts.”

Simmered down to its essence, that means a group of food writers who had never evaluated Hawaii cuisine — but who have evaluated the food scenes of 38 other locales — flew in, tasted, and chose the best and the best at pushing the envelope. That’s why the tasting at the Halekulani sold out.

In StarChefs tradition, Rising Stars named their mentors, and the stage was filled with elder chefs and one dad (that of Star Noodle’s Sheldon Simeon). But credit for recognizing that Hawaii’s evolving food scene has once again risen to a validity that deserves notice beyond these islands, and for flying to New York to lobby StarChefs to come, belongs to Halekulani’s executive chef, Vikram Garg.

Here, a sampling of last night’s party, and below, all the Hawaii Rising Stars.

Hawaii's Rising Stars (1 of 26)

Hawaii's Rising Stars

Last night at the Halekulani: The lineup.

— Photo by Ed Morita

• Andrew Le, PIg and the Lady
• Wade Ueoka, Alan Wong’s
• Michelle Karr-Ueoka, Alan Wong’s
• Quinten Frye, Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar
• Doug Kocol, Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar
• Mark Noguchi, Pili Hawaii
• Ed Kenney, Town and Uptown Events
• Dave Newman (mixologist), Pint + Jigger

• Christopher Kulis, Capische?
• Cameron Lewark, Spago Maui
• Jojo Vasquez, Plantation House Restaurant
• Elizabeth McDonald, Honu Seafood and Pizza and Mala Ocean Tavern
• Sheldon Simeon, Star Noodle

• Nick Mastrascusa, Beach Tree


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About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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