“Hello!” MiJin calls out as she walks down the path to my door. I’m just taking the scones out of the oven, and the scent of butter and berries permeates the kitchen. She’s brought a jar of XO sauce — one of China’s greatest contributions to the culinary world. (“XO” is a distillate term meaning the best, top shelf.) MiJin makes hers with dried shrimp, scallops, fresh Kaua‘i shrimp, scallions and chilies. I vow to eat it with my next meal. We retreat to my teahouse, where she shares her background. “I attended the accelerated ten-month program at Napa Greystone [Culinary Institute of America]; I already had a degree in food science and nutrition from the University of Illinois.” Sheepishly, she admits her reason for attending culinary school: “I wasn’t ready to pay my college loans. And the only way to defer them was to continue my education.”
At Greystone, MiJin found her passion. “I was in love with cooking. I threw myself into my studies and worked for one of the most inspirational chefs in Napa, Chef Hiro Sone at Terra. He opened my eyes to food combinations and platings, and, most importantly, the value of quality ingredients. My foundation was built on his uncompromised kitchen philosophy. As I’ve grown into my own culinary style, I want to promote my [Korean] culture. The food I ate, growing up, is different from anyone else’s food. The connection to these flavors sets my ideas apart from others. When my kitchen team presents me with new ideas, it’s exciting to reach into my memory bank of flavors and meld those to foods they were raised with.”
So, where does a group of chefs from Maui — who have just prepared food for some of the world’s most sophisticated diners — decide to eat while they’re in NYC? When I ask MiJin, she becomes even more animated. “We got to meet Chef Deuki Hong, the coauthor of the acclaimed book Koreatown. We talked about bringing him to Maui for one of our Chef Bloc dinners [an intimate dining concept Isaac brought to Andaz Maui in 2014]. Up until now, we’ve showcased some of Hawai‘i’s top chefs. In our next round, we’re inviting chefs from [the continent] to share their knowledge and cuisine.” She adds, “We also convinced Deuki to demonstrate kim-chee making one day before the dinner.” Knowing MiJin’s passion for the food of her Korean heritage, I can bet that she will not only taste Deuki’s cuisine, but will create and recreate more inspired dishes for her tour de force at Ka‘ana Kitchen.
Deuki Hong, executive chef at New York City’s Kang Ho Dong Baekjong, will collaborate on a December 10 Chef Bloc dinner at Ka‘ana Kitchen for twenty-four guests. His kim-chee demonstration is scheduled for December 9. For information and reservations, contact the resort’s guest services at 808-243-4795, or AndazMaui.com.