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Chef, hotels embrace task of catering to global palates

By Joleen Oshiro


It's said food is the universal language, but what's to be done when people from 21 different cultures converge for one dinner?

That's the question the Sheraton Waikiki resort and the Royal Hawaiian hotel faced in heading up a dinner to feed 3,000 delegates and business leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The summit has gathered an estimated 20,000 people, including delegates, staff, family and journalists, to Waikiki.

The hotels' answer is "Taste of America," a culinary showcase of five cities across the United States: Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle, Dallas and New York. The dinner takes place Friday for the APEC CEO Summit that's part of the larger event.

Colin Hazama, executive sous chef at the Sheraton Waikiki, was responsible for creating menus inspired by Los Angeles, Seattle and New Orleans. He spent a week researching the food of the cities before he came up with a lineup of dishes.

"The focus is on farm-to-table," he says. "I researched products that are grown (in each locale) … and sometimes we're supplementing with Hawaii ingredients. As much as possible, we're using products from America."

Each city will be featured with three cold and hot dishes and two desserts under grazing tents that will stretch across the Sheraton Waikiki and Royal Hawaiian properties. On the lineup representing New Orleans is a Big Easy Pickled Watermelon Salad using arugula, endive, radicchio, aged goat cheese and candied molasses walnuts. Then there's a Sunset Boulevard Fresh Fruit Salad inspired by Los Angeles that features berries, dragon fruit, accents of coconut lime haupia cubes and a topping of champagne sabayon.

Among the Seattle dishes is the Pike's Market Cedar-Smoked Salmon that includes watercress, arugula, a lemon-dill vinaigrette and a finishing of wildberries. Hazama cured the salmon in-house with a two-parts salt and one-part sugar mixture.

"I wanted a raw texture. The salt draws out the moisture and the sugar firms and cooks the meat. That reduces the risk of bacteria," he says.

Hazama says the dishes will be partially made in the kitchen and finished on site "so diners can see what we're doing and that everything is fresh."

But Hazama's dinner is just one of many that Starwood properties are responsible for pulling together that night.

Friday is the only free night on the APEC schedule, so CEOs are also holding private parties to meet with delegates of various economies to pursue business alliances. Hotel spaces, restaurants and even private homes all over Oahu are sites for these meetings.

"All the ballrooms and spare rooms are booked at Sheraton Waikiki. RumFire, the Edge (at Sheraton Waikiki), Azure and the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian, Waikiki Beachhouse at the (Westin Moana Surfrider) — they've booked all the spaces," says Brian Hunnings, Starwood area director of food and beverage.

In all, Sheraton Waikiki will host 22 parties, Royal Hawaiian is handling 12 and the Moana, six.

Throughout APEC, Sheraton Waikiki also is hosting the delegation from the People's Republic of China, and the former Hanohano Room kitchen is being used solely for cooking the meals of Chinese president Hu Jintao, who brought his own chef.

About 300 other Chinese delegates are eating meals at the property's Yoshiya restaurant. Because the hotel's chefs cook Cantonese- and Mandarin-style dishes rather than Szechuan ones, six chefs from Starwood properties in Shanghai were brought in to man Yoshiya's kitchen.

Between hosting the CEO summit and a prominent delegation, staff at Sheraton Waikiki is on duty 24/7.

On Friday, more than 800 Starwood food and beverage workers will be hustling and bustling.

Throughout APEC, "hospitality is offering 24-hour room service," says Hunnings. "Purchasing has coordinated food shipments with the Chinese presidential delegation. Deliveries can be accepted only between 3 and 6 a.m. because the delivery area is the only place a president can go in and out of a hotel."

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