Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, October 7, 2001

Martin and Jeanne Wyss shared a toast at the Sept. 28 dinner.

Chefs, caterers honor
Swiss Inn founder

Retired owner Martin Wyss stays busy
making his trademark salad dressing


By Betty Shimabukuro

"AT NIGHT is the hardest. All my life I worked at night."

It has been nearly a year since Martin Wyss gave up ownership of the Swiss Inn, turning the kitchen of that Niu Valley institution over to another chef and going into semiretirement.

He's worked on his neglected yard, paid a visit to a daughter in Portland, Ore., started retailing his Swiss Inn salad dressing. But he still can't get used to nights at leisure. "I don't watch TV or anything like that."

But for one fancy evening, Wyss's colleagues in the industry gave him plenty to do. The Hawaii chapters of Chef de Cuisine and the National Association of Catering Executives presented him with a lifetime achievement award at their annual Renaissance dinner Sept. 28 at the Sheraton-Waikiki.

He was recognized for his 18 years at the helm of the Swiss Inn, plus almost as many years as executive chef at the Kahala Hilton.

"You are true to your heart and your profession and everyone around you," chef Gottlieb Dambach told him.

Another colleague spoke of a long-ago party "when we almost burned down the apartment," but on the whole the tributes recognized Wyss's dedication, not just to his restaurant and customers, but also to the mentoring of new chefs.

"I still encourage young people to enter the profession," Wyss said in his acceptance speech, "as long as they know it's hard work and they're probably going to be working when everyone else is having a good time."

He also spoke of a desire to change the education system so teens could enter restaurant apprenticeships as young as 15, in lieu of finishing high school. Not everyone, he said, is cut out for calculus.

Wyss began his own culinary training at age 16 in Switzerland. He came to Hawaii in the 1960s, leaving only briefly to take a position in Newark, N.J., then returning as executive chef at the Hilton.

"I would have come back as a dishwasher, I missed this place so much," he said.

In 1982 he opened the Swiss Inn, with his wife, Jeanie, running the dining room. By the time they'd made the decision to retire, the two had a deeply devoted clientele, loyal to Wyss's osso bucco and other classic dishes.

Wyss returns to the restaurant occasionally to help the new owners. They've changed the name to Swiss Haus but serve many of Wyss's dishes.

Wyss is also making his salad dressing at Swiss Haus, selling 600 to 700 bottles a month at R. Field Food & Wine Co., Fujioka Wine Merchants and few Longs Drugs Stores. He's looking for a commercial kitchen so he can make the dressing on a larger scale and perhaps add other products.

Until then, he laughs, he's open to suggestions. "If you hear about a job, let me know."

Mauna Kea cancels wine event

The Winter Wine Escape at the Mauna Kea Resort, planned for Nov. 8 to 10, has been canceled in light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Instead, the resort is holding a benefit dinner Nov. 10 for the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund and the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Two New York chefs will take part: Tom Colichio of Grammercy Tavern and Jimmy Bradley of Red Cat. They will join Prince Resorts chefs in preparing dishes for the night.

Steve Olsen, the wine connoisseur who traditionally hosts the Winter Wine event, will emcee.

Cost is $80, with net proceeds going to the charities.

Those with tickets to the Winter Wine Escape may receive refunds or exchange their tickets for next year's event, which has been scheduled for November 2002. Call 808-880-3023.

A new face for Cascada

Cascada at the Royal Garden at Waikiki Hotel has reopened as Cafe du Monde, with new menu and management.

Chef Stephen Raborn presides over a Euro-Asian menu showcasing island seafood, as well as specialties such as filet mignon with lobster in truffle butter sauce and grilled lamb chops with béarnaise sauce.

The restaurant is open 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily. Call 945-0270.

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