On the verge of launching Senia restaurant with his wife, Katherine, and chef Chris Kajioka in Honolulu, Hawaii, Anthony Rush tells Janet Harmer about setting up shop on the other side of the world
What did you gain from your previous experiences of working abroad?
How did the opportunity to open a restaurant in Hawaii arise?
Senia is a partnership between my wife Katherine and I and our good friend Chris Kajioka. The three of us worked together at Per Se, where Katherine and I met. As well as having an awesome relationship with Katherine, Chris and I worked well in the kitchen.
After going our separate ways, Chris and I stayed in close contact. We both felt that one day we would want to work together again. I would have done everything to have Chris move to London, but the stars aligned in Hawaii.
When will the restaurant open?
July. We had hoped for earlier, but we've been waiting on the city to approve certain permits and we're now full steam ahead.
Describe the restaurant concept
The main restaurant is going to be casual-dining with regional American cuisine. We are going to source as much local produce as possible and stay true to Hawaiian ingredients. There will also be a seven-seat chef's counter and a chef's table that will seat up to five. At these, Chris and I shall do what we do best and serve a more refined 12-course tasting menu.
What food will you offer?
In the main restaurant Chris and I want to create a menu of the things that we love to eat when we go out. The menu will be designed for sharing, with a choice of small plates, as well as platters of large cuts of meat or whole fish.
The small plates will include Maui venison tartare with pickled sea asparagus from the north shore; and roasted bone marrow with beef cheek marmalade and Hawaiian sweetbread.
What are the biggest challenges in getting the restaurant open?
Getting the necessary permits has taken longer than we had anticipated. Things tend to move a little slower out here. We're told: "that's just island life," which is frustrating, but I think I can get used to it.
Have there been any difficulties in obtaining a visa?
No. With all the working visas I've applied for, it's just been a matter of a lot of paperwork and being thorough. I now have a green card, so I'm a little more permanent.
After your earlier stints in the US, why were you keen to return?
I've always admired the American level of service, but I also love the quality of the produce available here. Having done the west and east coasts, Hawaii is a whole other level and a new adventure.
How do you split the responsibilities with Chris?
Everything is 50/50. Right now, it's a little bit of a learning curve for me, as Chris is the local boy that knows everyone, but in the kitchen we just do what we do. We play off and inspire one another. No job is too small or too big for either of us. It is all about collaboration.
What are you enjoying most about Hawaii?
The weather speaks for itself, but the sense of community here is amazing. I really couldn't ask to be surrounded by a better group of people and we've already made new friends. Also, I'm very into outdoor sports, and everything I want to do is now on my doorstep.
You spent four years working in private service. How did that experience affect you as a chef?
It was a very positive experience. It allowed me to travel regularly, as well as dine out in many two- and three-star restaurants, both in the US and Europe. It also allowed me a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted with the food, so I spent a lot of time figuring out my own style - it's a real plus to be able to do that before opening your own restaurant.
Are you expecting to stay in Hawaii long-term?
2016 Joint chef-proprietor, Senia, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
2015-2015 Head chef, Fera at Claridge's, London
2013-2014 European culinary director, Hogsalt, London
2009-2013 Chef, private family, London
2005-2008 Sous chef, Per Se, New York, USA
2004-2005 Chef de partie, the Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire
2002-2004 Chef de partie, the French laundry, Yountville, California, USA
1999-2002 Sous chef, Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham
1995-1998 Chef de partie, the Horn of Plenty, Gulsworthy, Devon
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