It’s all about love.

Sure, Hawaii’s own Sam Choy is a world-famous chef par excellence who’s been cooking since he was a boy in his parents’ Oahu kitchen. And sure, Choy has created a culinary empire with a stunning list of accomplishments as tall as a coconut tree: 

  • James Beard Award Winner
  • Co-Founder of Pacific Rim Cuisine
  • Iron Chef
  • The Godfather of Poke
  • Series Television Celebrity
  • Food Truck Innovator
  • International Restaurateur
  • Former Head Chef of New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria
  • Philanthropist
  • Head Chef for American Airlines’ first-class dining
  • Prolific Cookbook Author (19 and counting!)

And sure Choy is constantly in demand — even guest starring as himself on an episode of “Hawaii 5-0”. (How cool is that?)

But what matters most to Sam Choy?

Love. True and simple. “If there’s no love,” says Choy, “it ain’t gonna happen.”

It’s the love that people feel when they eat his food, the love of collaborating with his team of talented chefs, and the love guests feel from genuinely caring service that comes standard with everything Choy does.

“If there’s no love, it ain’t gonna happen.”

Love is what led Choy to sign on as consulting chef at Koloa Landing Resort on everything from the Holoholo Grill, the Royal Luau, the Choy of Cooking series, and other exciting events they have yet to cook up. Choy could not take on even a fraction of the consulting offers that flow in but says he saw something different in this resort.

“What got me excited to be a part of Koloa Landing is their philosophy. They know how to make the people who come here happy. Chris [Machorek], the new general manager — I call him Doctor Love. Let’s be honest: It ain’t cheap to come to Hawaii. You want people to enjoy themselves and say, Wasn’t that a great time? The food was great, the service was great. That’s what we love to create.”

Choy enjoys cooking in the resort’s kitchen with Executive Chef Shaun Hinson and team. Hinson, who started in California restaurants before honing his skills in high-end hotels and private clubs in Savannah, Georgia, brings a culinary sensibility all his own to the chopping block.

“Chef Shaun is very talented,” says Choy. “We take all the information [that management] gives us and we just go out and play with it and have a bunch of fun. I give Shaun the island flavor and he brings his style. We do a kind of fusion together.”

Hinson says with a laugh, “Sam’s NOT a hard guy to get along with! He’s just so friendly and personable. There’re no egos because we’re in different worlds. He’s a celebrity chef and I’m just fortunate to be able to learn from him. But he really enjoys seeing what I can contribute.”

Sous Chef Rafael Camarillo grew up on Kauai and is an impressive chef in his own right with years of experience. “We get Raf in there,” says Choy, “and we really have a good time. I think the chemistry of this team is the key to why Koloa Landing is going to be a premier food and beverage destination.”

At least 80% of the ingredients used in the Koloa Landing kitchen is from Kauai sources. “The bottom line is fresh,” says Choy. “It’s really important we work with the farmers to get the unique freshness of the island. We love to be creative but we like to keep it all within that true taste of Kauai. That’s what people want. They don’t want to come all the way over here to have something they can get anywhere. I think that’s why the magic is here at Koloa Landing.”

Notable Dishes at Koloa Landing Resort

“Have you tried that Wagyu burger we serve?” asks Choy. “You can’t beat that burger. It’s one of the best in all of Hawaii. Have it medium rare to medium and it just melts in your mouth. And then we have the tomato jam available during the day and the onion jam in the evening and of course some nice fresh tomatoes and lettuce. I get really excited when I get to eat that burger!”

The Choy of Cooking series continues in April with an event that will feature a dazzling array of food and drink made from of everyone’s favorite tropical root: ginger. Barrow’s Intense Ginger — a unique liqueur that’s been appearing lately in cocktail shakers from here to the mainland — is a partner in the event. It’s a natural fit as some of the best ginger in the world is grown on farms right here on Kauai. The Koloa Landing lawn will transform into a lively festival where guests will not only be able to eat, drink and enjoy live music, they will also get to learn some new ginger recipes from the Master himself!

What does Choy enjoy doing in his downtime? He says he gets even more creative with food. “I think, What can I mix with this to get me that? He says that like Michael Jordan or LeBron James he just loves doing what he does best and having great fun with it. “The thing is . . . with all my recipes the magic is very simple. When you start with good ingredients it’s so easy to create great food!”

“Cilantro, ginger, green onions, and garlic. That is my circle,” says Choy. “Season with a nice sea salt, some soy sauce or a little hint of mint. That makes my food go wow. It sounds really simple but when people eat the food they say, ‘Wow — who put this together?’” He laughs. “It doesn’t take a genius to do it. It’s just a love of flavor.”

It’s love, indeed.


by Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing