Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Nina Kuna
Chef Joey Macadangdang walks into a cooking competition and he’s carrying a tea infuser made of clear glass. The other chefs glance in his direction, trying not to stare, but by the looks on their faces, they are wondering, What’s he doing with a tea infuser? He begins to assemble his mise en place: delicate, freshly harvested bright-yellow flowers from the bitter-melon vine, kabocha pumpkin for dumplings, pork-and-scallops mincemeat . . . and that tea infuser. (Turns out he uses the device to infuse the broth with delicate flavors from the melon flowers and vine.)
Macadangdang has been helming the kitchen at celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Maui restaurant longer than many of our up-and-coming young chefs have had careers. He continues to inspire them with seemingly endless culinary inventiveness.
Macadangdang moved to Maui from Luzon in Ilocos Norte, the Philippines, in 1983, and attended Lahainaluna High School. “After I graduated, I started dishwashing. I didn’t go to culinary school. I worked my way up,” he says. “I met Roy in 1992 and worked for him for a few months, and another job came along — a chef job at Blue Tropics nightclub in Lahaina. I worked all over the island in so many kitchens, and then I went back to Roy’s when the executive-chef position opened up. I’ve worked for him maybe a total of eighteen years. He took good care of me, so when I win awards as a chef under Roy’s restaurant, it’s good. I like the business to shine.”
Macadangdang didn’t bring his tea infuser to the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, but he did capture the Best of the Fest award with his creation of olive-oil monchong with soba spaetzle and curry. As dining editor for Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine, I was one of the judges, along with our publisher, Diane Haynes Woodburn; Michael Horn, president of CRN Digital Talk Radio; and Patrick Okubo, master sommelier for Young’s Market. We judges weren’t the only ones to pick Macadangdang’s dish as best; festival attendees also voted it fan favorite.