True & Authentic
Growing up on the mainland, Chef Aaron didn’t always know he’d make a career in Hawaii serving up delicious food. However, after he graduated from the prestigious California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he decided to try out life on the Big Island after receiving encouragement from friends. He hasn’t looked back since.
Today, lucky diners at the Seafood Bar & Grill get a chance to taste Chef Aaron’s tasty creations and eclectic style in his daily specials. His attention to flavor, execution and consistency over presentation and style is something he is proud of—and judging by the huge local following, his regulars appreciate the good-food-with-no-frills approach, too.
What is your
Basically, I’ve been in the business for about 35 years, and I’ve just always been real customer-oriented. I really love putting different flavors together, and specials are my forte. I’ve been running a special every night for 35 years now and I ask the staff if the guests like it. With an open kitchen, I get to see the guests’ reactions, which I love. I really try to make all of the customers happy. I also really try to make it look nice on the plate, but still keep it simple.
What' s your favorite
Big Island product?
The seafood. I’m an avid bodysurfer, so I’m always in the water, seeing all of the different animals like ‘opihi (sea snails) or crabs, and then go to a luau and you see how people eat them. I think, “Ooh, how do you do that?” Then a friend will say, “Oh next week, I’ll show you how to pick it, eat it and prepare it.” I’ve worked with fish before in San Francisco, and salmon in the Midwest, but the seafood is so fresh and vibrant here.
Your Signature Dish?
My signature dish is our specials. I love the steamed fish, done in a Chinese/Hawaiian style, though it’s not my signature dish, but we do it well consistently. It’s a nice way to show off the local fish and it’s definitely one of my, as well as our guests’, favorites. Our prime rib, cooked over an open fire with kiawe (mesquite) wood, is pretty special. The specials are great because the cooks get to shine. We have the regulars who call and ask what are we doing each night—they’ll say, “We had that special last week, when are you doing it again?” It gets them excited to come back. They know what’s on the menu, but don’t know what the specials will be.
What can guests
Look forward to?
Hopefully, they get to see the creativity behind our food. One of the most important things over the years has been the consistency. This comes from training the cooks and making sure the passion comes through. It blows my mind seeing the regulars come in and eat the same thing, but they know what to expect and can rely on our consistency.