Guest chef Leann Chin garnishes golden shrimp stuffed tofu with Roy Yamaguchi on "Hawaii Cooks."

A high-profile chef takes
a low profile on TV

First Daughter Mediaworks Inc. and chef and restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi have created the sixth season of "Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi."

The first of 13 new episodes will air at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, on PBS Hawaii. Each show repeats at 5:30 p.m. the following Saturday.

"We've been doing Hawaii Cooks since 1991 or 1992," said Melanie Kosaka, First Daughter vice president, creator and executive producer of the show.

Yamaguchi travels about six months out of the year, which limits his availability. This season's emphasis is family-style, celebration-type meals, so cooking segments are done in a home kitchen rather than the kitchen at Roy's Restaurant.

The field segments introduce a variety of Hawaii businesses, including Makaha Mangoes and Green Growers Inc. on Oahu, and the Big Island's Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory and Hawaiian Vanilla Co. Inc. Other neighbor island stops include Iwamoto Natto Factory on Maui and Kauai's Hamura Saimin Inc.

There will be guest chefs and Hawaii Cooks' usual suspects, including master sommelier Chuck Furuya and chef/restaurateur Alan Wong.

"I love Hawaii Cooks," Kosaka said. "It's near and dear to me."

It's shot on a shoestring budget through funding from the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, as well as sponsorships from companies such as Sub-Zero Freezer Co. Inc.

More than 40 public television stations will air the new show, previous seasons of which have seen airtime in 66 countries around the world. Selling the show internationally helps recoup costs, Kosaka said.

"The (public television) demographic matches well, I think, with people who are interested in Hawaii and want to travel to Hawaii," she said.

When Kosaka first approached Yamaguchi about doing the show they found their concepts were the same.

"I didn't want to do a cooking show to showcase myself," he said. "I felt that if I could do anything it would be to showcase the state of Hawaii, the people that make things so great for chefs like us. That's how we kind of came up with the theme of the shows, to go out to the fields and talk to the farmers, growers, fishermen, and to just anybody and everybody that makes life so great in Hawaii."

Feedback he receives at his dozens of Roy's Restaurants proves to him that the show's format does promote Hawaii.

"They don't talk about cooking," he said. They share stories of visits to the islands "and how the show made them feel really close to their time spent in Hawaii."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, 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

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