2015 Grand Marshal

2015 Grand Marshal_Roy YamaguchiRoy Yamaguchi, Chef/Founder, Roy’s Restaurants

Roy Yamaguchi is the chef and founder of a collection of restaurants including 30 Roy’s Restaurants in the U.S. and Guam, the Tavern by Roy Yamaguchi, and Eating House 1849. He is revered for his culinary skills and is an innovator of Hawaiian inspired cuisine, an eclectic blend of California-French-Japanese cooking traditions created with fresh ingredients from Hawaii. He is the first from Hawaii to be honored with the prestigious James Beard “Best Pacific Northwest Chef” Award in 1993 and earned numerous honors, including: California Chef of the Year (California Restaurant Writers Association), Gault-Millau Top 40 (Forbes FYI), Top 50 Cuisines in America (Conde Nast Traveler), Fine Dining Hall of Fame (Nation’s Restaurant News), and the John Heckathorn Dining Excellence Award (Honolulu Magazine).

Yamaguchi was born and raised in Tokyo. His Hawaii roots are tied to his paternal grandfather who owned a tavern in Wailuku, Maui in the 1940s. He attributes his appreciation for food to his Hawaii-born father and his Okinawa-born mother. Yamaguchi attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York where he received his formal culinary training. After graduating in 1976, he accepted positions at some of the most prestigious California restaurants at the time, L’Escoffier, L’Ermitage, Le Serene, Michael’s, and Le Gourmet in the Sheraton Plaza La Reina. In 1984 Yamaguchi opened his first restaurant, 385 North, in Hollywood, and in 1988, he moved to Honolulu to open the first Roy’s Restaurant. He is also credited as the mastermind behind the 1994 debut of Outback Steakhouse in Hawaii.

Yamaguchi hosted six seasons of the PBS series, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, broadcast on more than 300 stations in all 50 states, and in more than 60 countries. He was also featured on the Food Network’s My Country, My Kitchen, taking him back to his roots in Japan. Yamaguchi also competed as one of 12 of the nation’s most notable chefs on the first season of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters; and appeared as Iron Chef Asian, in the first incarnation of Iron Chef USA.

In 2004, he launched a “Roy Yamaguchi” brand of cookware sold on the Home Shopping Network. Partnering with Ajinomoto North America in 2011, Yamaguchi developed a “Roy Yamaguchi” food product line for national distribution. He has published four cookbooks: Pacific Bounty, Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii, Hawaii Cooks: Flavors from Roy’s Pacific Rim Kitchen, and Roy’s Fish and Seafood.

Yamaguchi’s personal influence and community involvement have placed him among the most influential chefs in the nation. He gave the commencement speech to the 1996 graduating CIA class and in 2009 was elected to its Board of Trustees. In 2011, Yamaguchi was nominated by the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye and earned a political appointment under the Obama administration to the board of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now known as Brand USA. He is one of 11 board members and has used his culinary and travel experience to help develop policies and strategies to promote the U.S. as a premiere travel destination. He is also part of the U.S Department of State’s American Chef Corps, a network of chefs from across the U.S. who have agreed to be resources and elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.

Yamaguchi founded and chairs, along with Chef Alan Wong, the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which has become Hawaii’s premiere food and wine event. He established the Tom and Warren Matsuda Scholarship Fund, providing scholarships to attend the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. Founding the Roy’s Annual Golf Classic more than 17 years ago, which has raised more than $400,000 for Imua Family Service. Yamaguchi serves as trustee and/or member of many nonprofit boards, including: U.S. Japan Council, Go For Broke National Education Center, Culinary Institute of the Pacific, Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation, and Good to Grow.