Hawaii chef joins CIA's inner circle
ROY'S Restaurant founder and chef Roy Yamaguchi
is with the CIA -- but he doesn't have to kill you now that you know.
In this case the acronym stands for the Culinary Institute of America, based in Hyde Park, N.Y., with a second campus in St. Helena, Calif., in Napa Valley.
Yamaguchi is among four new members of the unpaid, 25-member CIA Board of Trustees inaugurated during the college's annual meeting last month. The other three were John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, John Luther, chief executive of Dunkin' Brands and Hal Rosser, founder and managing director of Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., a private equity investment company with restaurants in its portfolio. A long-time trustee with Hawaii ties is Dick Bradley, founder and former owner of Sunset Grill and other Hawaii restaurants.
Of the three new trustees, Yamaguchi is an alumnus, graduating from the school's two-year program in 1976, before it offered a four-year program.
He is honored to serve, he told TheBuzz.
"It will be a great opportunity for me to ... give back to the school that I love and that helped me to build a foundation that I was able to build a career upon," he said.
Just a bit of a career, with a restaurant chain of 34 units around the world. Mainland locations are owned by a partnership between Yamaguchi and Outback Steakhouse Inc. International locations are licensed.
About the time Yamaguchi was matriculating there were relatively few nationally renowned culinary celebrities -- Julia Child was one.
Quietly though, eateries like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., were fomenting a foodie revolution destined to create destination restaurants whose chefs or chef-owners would attain rock-star status.
"Back in the 1940s, cooking might not have been a so-called professional career," he said. He seems uncomfortable with the rock-star comparison, but says that nowadays, being considered a world-class chef is an extremely high honor and that the status is well-regarded among professionals, he said.
When he was a student, Japanese and Chinese cuisine was included in the curriculum and he did not chime in on the instruction. "I was just there as a student," he said. Last month, he made a point of visiting the Asian cooking classes, that now also include dishes from Korea and other countries.
The class was learning to prepare bi bim bap and kal bi "and the students were getting into it," Yamaguchi remarked.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com