Every cook in our kitchen has this perk: to use any of the products we have in the kitchen, work and experiment with them in hopes of creating a dish that will make the menu one day. All I ask of them when they do use the product is to “respect the food, do not waste; it is not meant to feed you because you are hungry; the intent is to give you the experience so that hopefully you can create a worthy dish or component for a full menu one day.”
This is a process; it usually takes a while and it means that they have to have a strong desire to persevere through all of the suggestions and adjustments needed to improve on an idea. Not all cooks take advantage of this but, for the ones who do, you can tell they want to be better and are working on their craft.
In this case, Sonny Acosta wants to work on the dish shown above as an amuse for his Next Generation Dinner. He already created an amuse earlier, but he likes this one more. That’s good; it means he is in the process. He has two dishes for an amuse now. One he will use and the other he will put in his backpocket for a future use.
I know he was inspired by his recent trip to the CIA with me and this dish is a result of that experience. Travel is so important to refresh yourself, get reenergized, and see what’s new.
Shaun Gaines, our sous chef, has been working on this dish. What I like most is the Kabu Mostarda. The kabu is a kind of daikon, comes from Otsuji Farms in Kalaheo. I like that pungent mustard taste you get from a mostarda, a good complement to the sweet marinated lamb done Chinese style. Fruit is usually used in this condiment, so it’s kind of unusual to have a vegetable. Char siu pork is an island favorite. For this lamb, the longer you marinate it the more intense it gets.
Shaun came from Boston six months ago; he worked for Barbara Lynch and Jody Adams. Anyone coming from the mainland U.S. needs to try and understand the Asian ingredients we use. Our style utilizes a lot of ethnic ingredients and crosses over different cultures — not by design, but by taste first. It is interesting to watch him learn this new style. As long as he remains open to new things and ideas, he will be ok.