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Monday, November 6, 2000

Ward Centre’s
A Pacific Cafe
closes its doors

Owner and renowned chef
Josselin plans to open a restaurant
in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas

By Betty Shimabukuro

A Pacific Cafe Oahu served its last meal this weekend, just days before its chef-owner is to open a new restaurant at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

The last night of service at the Ward Centre restaurant was Saturday. Chef Jean-Marie Josselin met with the staff yesterday and told them A Pacific Cafe would not reopen. His managers are trying to find positions for the 35 employees either with Josselin's neighbor-island restaurants or with other Oahu establishments.

Josselin's Las Vegas restaurant, 808, will open Nov. 13 in partnership with Caesar's Palace.

Josselin said the decision to close A Pacific Cafe was independent of the Las Vegas opening. The Oahu restaurant reportedly was undergoing financial difficulties, but Josselin attributed the closure to the personal stress of running four Hawaii restaurants.

The Las Vegas deal will be easier because Caesar's will handle the major operational chores, he said.

"They take care of running the operation day-to-day and I do basically the menu and the training of the staff," Josselin said. "It's a pretty good thing for me because I don't have to be there all the time."

A Pacific Cafe opened in 1996 under a nine-year lease with Victoria Ward. Josselin said he negotiated a clause at the time allowing him to end the lease at the halfway point if necessary, and he was exercising that option.

Mitch D'Olier, chief executive of property owner Victoria Ward Ltd., said the center is already negotiating with another restaurateur to take over the space and expects to complete a deal by the end of the month. He said his company and Josselin's have ended their relationship with no outstanding issues remaining. "We're parting with respect for each other."

Josselin is a high-profile Hawaii Regional Cuisine chef whose restaurants have won national recognition. He has been nominated six times for the prestigious James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef of the Northwest/Hawaii.

His first restaurant, A Pacific Cafe Kauai, opened in Kapaa in 1990 and remains the flagship of the chain. Josselin also owns two Maui locations, in Kihei and Honokawai, and for five years he operated the Beach House in Poipu, Kauai, under a lease agreement. When that restaurant was sold late last year, Josselin's involvement ended.

A Pacific Cafe Kauai has been named among the best restaurants in the country by Conde Nast Traveler and Bon Appetit magazines.

Greg Waldron, vice president for food and beverage at Caesar's, said the hotel was attracted to Josselin's "style of cuisine and reputation."

Waldron said 808 will be a fine-dining showcase among nine restaurants in the hotel/casino complex. The restaurant space has been completely renovated over the last several months to change it from a Roman-banquet theme to an Asian-inspired space with walls of onyx and ash wood.

The 110-seat restaurant will not reflect any obvious Hawaiian theme, Waldron said, although its name, 808, for Hawaii's area code, will provide an understated clue. Josselin's connection to the islands will be clear in a biography printed in the menu, he said.

Josselin said the menu will be similar to that of A Pacific Cafe, including his signature dish of "Wok-Charred" Mahi Mahi. He has sent three of his employees to Las Vegas, including the executive chef from Kihei, Wesley Coffel.

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