A native of O’ahu who spent his early 20’s dancing with Halau o Kekuhi in Hilo, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi makes his debut at Taste in 2013. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the Culinary Institute of America, Noguchi was tapped as having the “Most Innovative Restaurant” and the “Best Loco Moco” while at He‘eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli. Known as a culinary leader in Hawai’i’s sustainable food movement, Mark serves as a panelist and/or featured chef for statewide events, including the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival, Taste of the Nation-Hawai‘i and Cochon Island Hawai’i. The modest, award-winning chef prefers to be known as a “cook,” so we are dropping “chef” before his name in this blog.
After finishing culinary school in New York and working at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, Noguchi returned to Hawai‘i to serve as lead cook at the former Kona Village Resort. He had other culinary stints at Chef Mavro, TOWN Restaurant and He‘eia Kea Pier Deli before serving as co-founder and chef of Pili Hawai’i and partner/chef at TASTE Table, a permanent pop-up venue that encourages new and experienced chefs to showcase their talents.
At Pili Hawai‘i (pili means interconnected), Noguchi offers catering and consulting based on the idea of providing “thoughtful” food…meaning Pili emphasizes place-based resourcing. Sourcing food within the ahupua’a (ancient Hawaiian division of land from the mountain-to-the sea) for an event is a core value of Pili, as well as resourcing from the best food producers Hawai’i has to offer.
Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.
A: It draws upon a frame reference. I grew up with Japanese food and learned European techniques when travelling. I used to dance and that was a catalyst for learning about food. Our halau was fed by families wherever we went and our hosts utilized awesome ingredients and served real authentic food. I draw upon all these experiences. Today, I take ingredients we have and come up with a menu. The sense of frugality in real home cooking is you have this and that and you make a delicious meal to feed people. That’s the reality in preparing food at home or in a professional kitchen.
Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef (GFB)?
A: It tastes good; it’s our job to use as much as possible. When you taste something good, all the other factors—having no antibiotics or hormones, that range-fed is better for the animal— factor into that result.
Q: What are your favorite GFB cuts and why?
A: I ask my rancher what’s not moving (selling) and then I use that. Chefs are selfish…we call our purveyors and ask for a specific thing, but as cooks we should be talking to farmers, creating a dialogue, and asking what they have available. So my faves are the less-utilized cuts…in five years I’ve never had a tenderloin on the menu; everyone wants it.
Q: Do you let patrons know on your menu they are eating GFB?
A: We try to push attributes of products subtly; we list ranches, farms…and if guests choose to inquire more, than we only share the details. Screaming sustainable is out-of-date, so we don’t do it as we should be doing it already.
Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?
A: I really enjoy local brassica: cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Q: What are your favorite “fun” things to do here in Hawai‘i?
A: I try to be outside, in the water or up in the mountains. I try to get away from four walls.