Chef Charles Charbonneau oversees the cuisine of the sprawling, award-winning hotel that annually serves as host to Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Aligned with Taste’s mission of encouraging and supporting locally produced ag products, Chef is passionate about sharing local ingredients on every plate possible in the resort’s many restaurants.
He explains, “When 12 chefs started using locally grown farm produce more than 20 years ago, they could hardly have imagined the longevity of their passion for Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. Today, we reap the bounty of that vision in a stunning array of local produce brought to us by dozens of small farmers who specialize in growing the best Hawai’i Island can offer.”
The son of a Japanese mother who immigrated to the U.S. after WWII and an American father, Charles says his parents inspired him to enter the restaurant industry at an early age.
Without their early tutelage, he would not have become a chef. Charbonneau attended the Culinary Institute of America and spent more than 18 years at Interstate Hotels and Resorts.
His tenure included serving as food and beverage “task force commander” for the opening of two Marriotts in Moscow.
Charbonneau also had the honor of being selected as President Bill Clinton’s personal chef during a 1994 summer vacation and serving for many years as the Jacksonville Jaguars chef at the annual “Taste of the NFL” prior to the Super Bowl.
“A chef is only as good as the places he has been and the things he has accomplished,” notes Charbonneau. He said his love of travel and pristine ingredients, including the world’s freshest fish, are what brought him to Hawai’i. Charbonneau is married with three children, who are his pride and joy.
Q & A
Q. What local food products are your favorite and why?
A: Working with our local farmers is truly important. They bring us seasonal produce and because of our unique growing seasons, we’re able to offer fresh fish, fruits and vegetables all year long. There’s abundant mango, papayas are excellent and we’re working with excellent local farms producing greens, chards and spinach. A fantastic local company, Tropical Dreams, is taking our fresh fruits and turning them into incredible sorbets and ice creams. The exotic dragon fruit-with its vibrant, purple-pinkish hues-is a favorite.
As the seasons change, so do the Hilton’s fish choices. Look for ono and ahi dishes on our restaurant menus in a variety of special preparations-we love to use ono. Light, fresh and bursting with color, our menus reflect the bounty, and the beauty of island life.
Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.
A: World cuisine – a wide variety of preparations, dishes and influences affect my style. My tendency is to prepare food with a light and fresh approach, not heavy butter sauces.
Q: What are your favorite fun things to do in Hawai’i?
A: Hiking, travel and sports
Hilton Waikoloa Village is located at 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Beach Resort, Waikoloa, HI, 808-886-1234, www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com.