Wowing attendees with grass-fed Kim Chee Meatloaf, Chef Michelle Yamaguchi of Honolulu’s ‘Umeke Market made a culinary name for herself at last year’s Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Chef Michelle is returning to Taste again this September to again offer her healthy and delicious style of cooking that is featured in the market’s deli. We feature Michelle in this week’s Taste It blog, along with her popular recipe for Kim Chee Meatloaf.
A Midwest Upbringing
Michelle Yamaguchi says she grew up “eating the most amazing fresh fruit and vegetables.” The produce was sourced from mother’s family, who operated a farm in Wisconsin. They planted and tended a garden with lettuce, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and squash. She also helped preserve food typical to Midwesteners: canning tomatoes and peaches, and making berry preserves.
Michelle says her days spent with food on the farm spurred her interest in the culinary arts, which is her second career. Michelle has a journalism degree and first worked as a reporter for Pacific Business News. However, she is glad she traded in her notepad for a stockpot and loves working as chef/manager for ‘Umeke Markets’ two locations. In her spare time, the busy mother of three enjoys hiking “anywhere and everywhere.” In the summer, she heads to the beach and loves snorkeling at Three Tables on the North Shore.
Q and A
Q: How would you describe your cooking style?
A: My cooking style is simple, healthy, practical and imaginative. Meatloaf, for example, is pretty basic comfort food, but we’ve done it Kim Chee Style and with a Hoisin BBQ Sauce that people have fallen in love with! I’m also a huge advocate of whole grains and we make a wide variety of grain salads: quinoa, barley, millet.
Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef?
A: That’s an easy one: taste. When you start with a great product, it’s hard to go wrong. Start with fresh garlic, salt and pepper …. I’m also big on fresh herbs. Avoiding the use of hormones and antibiotics as much as possible is important to our customers.
Q: What are your favorite GFB cuts and why?
A: Because we’re a much more casual dining experience, we keep it simple and real. We work mainly with the ground beef right now. Burgers, meatloaf, local moco …
Q: Do you let patrons know they are eating GFB on the menu?
A: We make it a point to let customers know what we’re serving and why, especially the healthy meat options. Many of our customers return regularly for that reason alone. That and the food is really good.
Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?
A: I love, love, love the organic kale we use from Ko Farms. Our raw ‘Umeke Kale Salad continues to be a customer must-have. This ultra-healthy super food has been largely ignored by the masses and chefs alike and considered little other than as a lowly garnish. As of more recent, our Kale Smoothie is also a top seller, easily surpassing the famed Acai Bowl and Acai Smoothie, among others.
A: Yes, 2011 was our first year participating in the Taste of the Hawaiian Range and we’re absolutely thrilled to be invited to return. It was a fantastic event – from the hotel and kitchen staff, to the other vendors and volunteers, to the event guests – Big Island folks especially. They showed such appreciation for both our efforts and the event in general. Much aloha!
‘Umeke Market is located at Bishop Square in Downtown Honolulu, 808-522-7377 and across from Kahala Mall at 4400 Kalaniana’ole Hwy., 808-739-2990. http://www.umekemarket.com