The TT 46

Ed Kenney

Mud Hen Water, Town and Kaimuki Superette, Honolulu, HI
Photo: Marina Miller

Why he killed it in 2015: The land of aloha hasn't seen a lot of action since the days of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, pioneered by Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong and more island-minded chefs in the early 90s. But that's changed with the opening of Mud Hen Water, Kenney's ode to ancient Hawaiian ingredients like sour pa'i'ai (fermented taro) and the Asian-Americanized comfort food he grew up with like brothy saimin. With this and his upcoming Mahina & Sun's opening next month, it all adds up to the most exciting food on the island right now.

How would you describe your food? "Elevated home cooking that depicts a 'Hawaiian sense of plate.'"

What's your signature dish? "Lawalu I'a: fresh fish and seasonal vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked in a traditional Hawaiian method, buried in embers. The cooked dish is finished with a generous drizzling of extra-virgin coconut milk."

What's the dish you'd cook for the rest of your life? "Salads. Made from an ever-changing palette of roots, leaves, veggies, fruits, stems, shoots, nuts, seeds, blossoms, cheese, smoked fish, cured meats, rare beef, grilled bread, eggs . . . the possibilities are endless."

What are the three essential cookbooks on your shelf? "Joy of Cooking, Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple's Favorite Island Cookery (1973), Culinary Artistry."

Rank pancakes, waffles and French toast from favorite to least favorite. "Thin pancakes, waffles, French toast, thick pancakes."

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