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Turtle Bay chef heads to shrine of haute cuisine


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POSTED: Friday, December 04, 2009

Turtle Bay Resort Executive Chef Hector Morales Jr. is about to go to the big house—and in the culinary industry that can only mean the James Beard House.

In preparing a dinner there, Morales joins the ranks of a few other Hawaii chefs, such as Chef George Mavrothalassitis, who have prepared dinners at the hale-o-haute cuisine in the past.

“;I'm excited,”; he said of his impending first time there.

The experience will be “;one of the top couple of things I've done.”;

Another was cooking alongside the legendary French culinarian Paul Bocuse in 1995. “;I did a dinner in concert with him”; while chef de cuisine at the Stouffer Wailea Beach Resort.

Morales and four other chefs from Benchmark Hospitality International properties will serve a five-course dinner, plus dessert, at the former home of the late and revered James Beard Dec. 17, with wine pairings chosen by Benchmark Chief Wine Officer Mary Watson-DeLauder.

The produce for Morales' Beard House dishes, as for 21 Degrees North, his restaurant at Turtle Bay, is all local and certified organic, he said. “;I've been doing the organic thing close to a year.”;

He just returned from a mainland practice dinner with the other chefs, “;to make sure we got it right, to make sure it was Beard-worthy,”; he said.

His first dish is an hors d'oeuvre that will be served at a pre-dinner reception. It has all your basic food groups artfully stacked together in a one-bite portion. It is lomi salmon and tomato atop kalua pig atop a mango and Waialua sweet onion compote atop a piece of Molokai purple sweet potato brioche.

His entree will be served as the second course: pan-seared opakapaka topped with microgreens and diced tomato and onion served with an organic Meyer lemon citrus butter and a brilliant magenta dragon-fruit emulsion.

The kitchen at the dinner venue is small, so much of the food prep will be done at a Benchmark resort in nearby New Brunswick, N.J.

Morales has been at Turtle Bay for 14 years and has been with Benchmark for the past seven years since it acquired and renovated the property.