A favorite chef at this year’s Hawaii Chocolate Festival on O’ahu, Chef Ronnie Nasuti of Tiki’s Grill & Bar wowed attendees with his chocolate pasta dessert, which was showcased on Honolulu morning news shows. Chef makes his culinary event debut on the Big Island at this year’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and shares a recipe for Pulehu Grass-Fed Filet Mignon.
Working in Kitchens Since 14
Chef Nasuti grew up in Massachusetts. His first restaurant gig was as a dishwasher. At 17, he became a kitchen manager at a classical Northern Italian restaurant where he assisted the chef/owner on a daily basis while honing his culinary chops. Nasuti finished four years of culinary arts in high school and further developed his trade through an apprenticeship at Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel; the apprenticeship was sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier. Nasuti says Julia Child was a member of the Les Dames chapter there and he got to meet her.
In Hawai‘i he worked at Horatio’s (now Kincaid’s Restaurant) and then joined Chef Roy Yamaguchi and crew working at various Roy’s Restaurants in Hawai‘i Kai, Waikiki and Poipu, Kaua’i. Nasuti also served as executive chef at the award-winning Chez Michel, the location formerly at Eaton Square in Honolulu.
After a proven record of successful culinary stints, Chef chose to “hang his hat” at Tiki’s and has been steering the Waikiki establishment to a higher level of dining and elegance. He believes in being an effective and motivational trainer, from both the front and back of the house.
Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.
A: A fusion of Hawaiian/Pacific Island Cuisine with American Cuisine. I believe in the locally grown food movement and have visited farms and built strong bonds with our food producers. I rely on island-fresh produce, proteins and breads to create signature items and dinner specials like Nalo Shiso-Seared Tofu Salad using Mrs. Cheng’s island-made tofu, Waimanalo greens, local tomatoes, Kula onion and a soy vinaigrette. Another is Bacon and Lemongrass-Crusted Ono served with Molokai potatoes and lilikoi chili butter sauce.
Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef (GFB)?
A: To support local farmers and to provide our clientele with something that’s healthier and tastes better.
Q: What are your favorite GFB cuts and why?
A: I like the primal cuts like filet mignon, ribeye, striploin, etc., as grass-fed beef has more “bite” than the grain-finished stuff. (Primals are the sections of the carcass—like rib, loin and round—used to create specific beef cuts.) To keep it in our price point at Tiki’s, I use primarily ground beef. We sell lots of great burgers as we are a “Grill & Bar.” I use about 210 pounds a week.
Q: Do you let patrons know on your menu they are eating GFB?
A: Our guests definitely know they are ordering Big Island ground beef in their hamburgers! It states it on our menu
Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?
A: I love all local products. The idea of getting product that wasn’t shipped thousands of miles—in an economy we’re the bulk of—is key to our success and collective effort towards sustainability. Anything that we can get locally and is within our price point is on our menu! In addition to grass-fed beef, baby greens, herbs, lettuce, local tofu, tomatoes, potatoes, various vegetables, melons, fish and abalone are some of the local products we use. To call one a favorite, I’d say maybe opihi; though it’s not too easy to get, but defiantly a delicacy, I love octopus also.
Q: What are your favorite “fun” things to do here in Hawai‘i?
A: I love to get in the water. I try to find more ways to do it. I got a jet ski and some paddle boards recently to give me more excuses to get in the ocean. I love to motorcycle ride also. Anything that gets me outside! I love to cook, but most of that happens indoors.
Tiki’s Grill and Bar is located at 2570 Kalakaua Ave in the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, 808-923-TIKI (8454). www.tikisgrill.com