Saturday, September 25, 1999

Chef leaving
namesake restaurant

The Colony Surf hopes to take
David Paul's 'to a new level'

By Betty Shimabukuro


David Paul's Diamond Head Grill -- a fine-dining haven at the eastern end of Waikiki -- will move into the new millennium without its namesake, charismatic chef David Paul Johnson.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, new manager of the Colony Surf, home of David Paul's, is hoping to take the restaurant "to a new level," general manager Ren Hirose said yesterday.

Johnson's management contract to run the restaurant will not be renewed.

The new restaurant will keep the name Diamond Head Grill. It will be run by David Reardon, executive chef at the Orchid at Mauna Lani, and will open Dec. 1.

David Paul's will continue in operation through November, Hirose said. Its 70 employees will be retained.

Johnson opened the elegant restaurant in March 1998, drawing an early following and winning Honolulu Magazine's Hale Aina award for best new restaurant.

Upon its opening, the Star-Bulletin's restaurant critic gave David Paul's four stars across the board for food, service, ambience and value.

Starwood, which owns the Sheraton and Westin chains, takes over management of the Colony Surf on Oct. 22 and will change the hotel's name to W Honolulu -- Diamond Head, in keeping with Starwood's "W" boutique hotel concept.

Hirose said each W hotel has a signature restaurant."In some cases, the restaurant becomes as popular as a showcase as the hotel itself."

David Paul's 140-seat restaurant served an average 100-150 "covers," or meals, a night, Hirose said. The hotel was satisfied with the restaurant's performance, he said, but the time was right to make a change.

Johnson also operates the Lahaina Grill on Maui and plans to return there to regroup.

Although the decision to part company was mutual, he said, "it's like giving up a child for adoption that you've borne."

Still, he is looking toward new opportunities.

"I'm excited because I'm free to move forward on concepts I've been working on for years. David Paul's Diamond Head Grill was a steppingstone for it."

Among those concepts: a cookbook and an independently produced television show, "Playing with Fire," which he hopes to market nationally by the end of the year.

Johnson also is developing a chain of microbrewery restaurants, moderate-size bistros serving Euro-Asian cuisine, with the first to open on Maui in mid-2000. The name: David Paul Soo Young.

The reason: "When people first meet me at the restaurant, they always say, 'You're so young.'"

Reardon has run the three restaurants at the Orchid since 1996. The hotel has the same owner -- Los Angeles-based Colony Capital Inc. -- as the Colony Surf.

He said the new Diamond Head Grill will feature regional Hawaiian cuisine featuring local, organically grown fruits and vegetables.

"It's a wonderful restaurant. ... It's a dream kitchen to work in," Reardon said.

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