Star Chefs in Hawaii: Michelle Karr-Ueoka

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It’s been a busy six months for Pastry Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka of Alan Wong’s Restaurant. During that time, she’s participated in the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, toured the Mediterranean on Seawind Tours & Travel Connoisseur’s Cruise and recently has been named as one of the 14 chefs featured at’s Raising Stars Revue.

A quick interview with her soon turned into an in-depth and interesting discussion on topics ranging from where she draw’s inspiration for her recipes, to supporting local farmers, all of which gave insight into her how her mind works.

“Some of it is what I’m craving, what I like to eat, and part of it is taking something that is so ordinary and making different,” the chef said when asked to describe her creative process,

An example of this is the pineapple shaved ice that she served at the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival. “It started off with a pineapple, and I told chef (Alan Wong) I want to make a shave ice because President Obama likes shaved ice” she says.

Chef Wong wasn’t sure where she was going with this idea, but he knew that it was going to be something different, and those attending the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival like Chef Michel Richard of Citronelle restaurant in Washington DC (shown right) found that it was.

Karr-Ueoka and Wong refers to it as Taste Hawaii. Showcasing the cultures and the farmers of Hawaii. “The goal of my creative process is bringing a sense of place and a taste of Hawaii to every guest,” Karr-Ueoka says. “The pineapple shaved ice has tapioca because it reminds me of halohalo. The panna cotta reminds me of ice cream in shaved ice because that’s what I grew up eating. I try to think of what people are familiar with and bring a contemporary version to it.”

A quick way of recognizing dishes with a twist on Alan Wong’s menus is to look for the quotation marks. Any item that is in quotes is an indication that you’ll be ordering something a little different than what you are expecting.

For the Rising Stars Revue, Karr-Ueoka will be serving her take on a lilikoi “brulee” (note the quotation marks). It consists of a pate du fruit in a martini glass topped with a lilikoi sorbet, custard, with the “brulee” refering to the tuile garnish that’s melted onto the martini glass. “I wanted a dessert that was a different style of brulee” Karr-Ueoka says. “I’ve never been to a place that had a brulee with different layers, so you get the creaminess, the frozen and then a different texture on the bottom.”

What’s next for Karr-Ueoka? Keep an eye out for a dessert using olive oil, chocolate and Hanapepe salt on Alan Wong’s New Year’s menu. It’s been a combination that she has been wanting to do for a while, but could never find the right olive oil for the pairing. She says that the olive oils available in Hawaii was never a perfect marriage. Her “ah-ha moment” occurred during the Connoisseur’s Cruise of the Mediterranean with Alan Wong, when she finally found the right olive oil being served in a small restaurant. Upon tasting it, she declared that the olive oil was coming home with her.

Karr-Ueoka will be joined at the Star Chefs Revue by fellow pastry chef Elizabeth McDonald of Honu Seafood & Pizza, Pili Hawaii Chef Mark Noguchi, mixologist Dave Newman of Pint + Jigger and many more talented chefs from Hawaii’s inaugural 2012 class.