Wrapped in their thin bamboo jackets, the stuffed shrimps have been baking on a sheet pan for ten minutes. As Tylun pulls them from the oven, the aroma of shellfish married with garlic and heady herbs envelops us. We inhale and sigh. Tylun picks up his propane torch, and Whoosshhhh! The cedar wraps ignite and sweet cedar smoke rises. Chef tells us why, at Kō, this last preparation occurs at tableside: “Being able to share with our diners the thought and process we put into the food is very meaningful to me. We smell this wonderful food in the kitchen, but the guests can’t, so we transport the excitement of the food, the aroma and all the senses of this dish to them with the smoking cedar.”
Tylun hands me a small container of short-grained rice and says, “Soak this right away. This needs an hour’s soak for the abalone congee. And here’s the wine to soak the cedar wraps.”
Next he says, “We need to make the dessert and get it into the refrigerator to chill.” Diane happily quips, “Life is short. Make dessert first!” Hearing “dessert,” Cathy Westerberg, our group publisher, steps up to the plate and separates eggs while I measure out the lavender honey and MauiWine’s Lokelani sparkling wine. Cathy belongs to a women’s tennis league, which turns out to be the perfect training for the job of whisking. Tylun shows her the proper figure-eight wrist action that will add loft to the eggs. He says, “If you see the eggs cooking at the edge, take it off the heat, keep whisking, then return to the stove. We don’t want scrambled eggs!” Minutes later, Cathy tastes the sabayon base she’s just made and rules it “Delicious!” Diane gently folds in the cream she has whipped, and the light and fluffy sabayon goes into the fridge.
Like the culinary choreographer that he is, Tylun has four dishes underway within the first thirty minutes. Michael Haynes heads business development for the magazine, but this morning finds him frenetically mincing garlic, tarragon, parsley and dill, then adding a touch of lemon juice and Worcestershire to the speckled green compound butter that will season the cedar-wrapped, fresh Kaua‘i shrimp. Diane gets a lesson on butterflying and deveining the large shrimp. At the sink, John scrubs abalones for the congee with salt and rinses them under running water. “Why do we need to remove the black pigment?” he asks. “It would make the congee bitter,” says Tylun, then instructs John to thin-slice the abalones and score the edges for tenderness.