Sam Choy's love of food began with mom
CLAIREMOANA MEYER CHOY / 1925-2005
Sam Choy might not have become Hawaii's best-known chef if his mother, Clairemoana Meyer Choy, had not driven him to succeed.
When Choy was trying to decide on a career, his mother drove him to culinary school every day at Kapiolani Community College.
Clairemoana Choy, who died Tuesday at age 79, is remembered by her family as someone who not only brought out the best in others, but did so with traditional Hawaiian family values.
Niece Ka'iwa Meyer always felt like one of Choy's favorites. "That's the way she was -- a beautiful, real strong Hawaiian with a powerful sense of family, devoted to her children. It was a huge extended family, and she was the head matriarch.
"She had a real history, clear-blooded on her mother's side back to the high chiefs of Hawaii, and the Meyers side came from Hamburg and built roads on the islands."
Born in Laie, Choy worked there much of her life, running the Laie Cash 'n' Carry store while husband Hung Sam Choy worked as an electrician at Pearl Harbor. In recent years, Choy was visible every day at Sam Choy's Kona restaurant, sitting near the entrance and greeting guests. "It was her aloha way," recalled Meyer. "People loved going there and she knew everybody. There were Hawaiian values in her soul."
"Mom was a great cook herself, a Julia Child in her way -- a one-pot wonder! -- and she lived for the holidays, when she would make up something special."|
Sam Choy said his mother exposed all her children to restaurant dining at a very young age. "That was unusual back then. Once or twice a week, we'd all pile in and go to a restaurant, and we could order anything we wanted. The idea was to expose us to good food of all types. That experience really stuck with us."
The Choys were famous in Laie for their large luaus, sometimes drawing as many as 800 people.
"Mom was a great cook herself, a Julia Child in her way -- a one-pot wonder! -- and she lived for the holidays, when she would make up something special," Sam Choy said.
He said she pushed her children toward self-confidence and achievement. "She had to drop out during the war, but she continued to be self-taught, reading and challenging us. She wanted us to do well, no matter what it was. But she was always a mother first."
Meyer said that in the last couple of weeks, as Clairemoana Choy realized that she was not going to leave the hospital, she was at peace. "There were dozens of people there all the time, people going to pay their respects and say they loved her. One night just before the end, she called me up at 3 a.m. and said, 'I'm going and I love you. I never realized that I was loved by so many people, and that is so wonderful. I can say goodbye.'"
Choy is also survived by son Patrick, daughters Claire and Moana, brother Robert and sisters Doris Ching, Elsie Ong and Elma Lee.
Visitation begins at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 19 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Laie.