RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
With students reflected in mirrors above, chef Nancy Oakes of Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco instructed a class at Kapiolani Community College Monday.
Creativity in the kitchen
Bay Area chef Nancy Oakes says it seems like the culinary energy is building in Honolulu
Fans of chef Nancy Oakes' famed San Francisco eatery, Boulevard Restaurant, will be pleased to know that she's opening a new restaurant in the Bay Area, with help from fellow chefs Pamela Mazzola and Ravi Kapur (formerly of Maui). The grand opening is scheduled for November. Though she hasn't yet settled on a name, all other details are in place.
It will have a larger bar with a more modern approach, though probably not as "white tableclothy," said the self-taught Oakes, who earned a degree in art. "People in their 20s and 30s don't want to sit at the table for three hours. They want to come in and sample it and then move on. Besides, the day of the enormous American entre is ready to retire. I don't want to eat that much of one thing anymore. And I don't want you to feel like you need to have six courses to have a complete meal. I don't want to have restrictions on the diner."
Oakes visited Hawaii this week with Mazzola, her fellow executive chef at Boulevard, as part of the Hale Aina Ohana series. She spoke to 90 attendees at a sold-out event at the Halekulani on Sunday, and conducted a cooking demonstration for 120 culinary professionals and students at Kapiolani Community College on Monday.
Five years have passed since Oakes traveled to Hawaii to participate in a fundraiser in memory of local pastry chef Heather Ho, who worked with Oakes for three years before moving to New York City. Ho died on 9/11 while working at the World Trade Center's Windows on the World restaurant.
Ed Kenney, chef/owner of Town in Kaimuki, attended Oakes' demonstration because her work has inspired him. "When you live in the kitchen, you don't get many opportunities to learn from other people," he said. And he did walk away with some new ideas.
For starters, her preparation of Hearts of Palm Carbonara spurred Kenney to use the immersion circulator he just purchased on eBay. Heating the water to exactly 62.5 degrees centigrade, it poaches eggs flawlessly for the garnish atop the "pasta" dish.
Though Oakes had little time to sample island cuisine beyond stops at Alan Wong's restaurant and Side Street Inn, she felt the culinary energy building here. "I think you guys are in for a burst of spectacular stuff," she said. "People are saying there's going to be some support for another round of high-end restaurants with some creativity. It just feels like Honolulu is ready for it."