Lollipop, Lollipop, la, la, la lollipop!
Everyone loves flavorful candy on a stick and Ken Takahashi took the treats to a new level with his Burger Pops at last year’s Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Assigned grass-fed burger, Takahashi created something unique and fun to eat while “grazing” at Taste. Chef shares his recipe for making burger “lollipops,” tells how he got into cooking and details his use of grass-fed beef at Honolulu Burger Company.
From Hilo to O’ahu
Born in Sapporo, Japan, Ken arrived in Hilo at the tender age of five in 1967. He attended De Silva Elementary, Waiakea Intermediate and High Schools and graduated from UH Manoa with a BBA in international business. He opened Honolulu Burger Company in 2010 after getting into the culinary arts via restaurant management.
Takahashi explains, “I began in the restaurant business as a part time host at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Ajisai-tei restaurant. There, I learned marketing and front-of-the-house operations, as well as rudimentary kitchen tasks from the chef. Within a few months, I became marketing/ sales manager and was responsible for also managing their two other restaurants. In order to effectively oversee the other restaurant operations, I had to learn how to cook and teach kitchen operations and cooking procedures to the culinary staff. That’s where it all started. After that, I opened a small hot dog, burritos and gyros stand called the Dog House at the King’s Village Shopping Center.
Besides loving food, Ken enjoys golf. He explains, “At last year’s Taste of the Range, I was able to sneak off with my friends from Hilo and almost finished 17 holes in two hours at Waikoloa Village Golf Club before it poured on us. Then I had to rush back to finish making our burger pops.”
Q and A
Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.
A: Chop Suey! I’m not ashamed to admit that through my career in the restaurant industry, I learned from whomever was willing to teach me. My mom taught me traditional Japanese home cooking. I learned other cuisines from chefs at different restaurants that I was involved with. I picked up ideas from cookbooks, TV-I was a food network junkie when it first started- and I even learned how to make a great tzatziki sauce from a Greek taxi driver who didn’t like what I was using for my gyros. Finally, I experimented with tastes and ingredients in the kitchen-it was a lot of trial and error.
Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef?
A: At Honolulu Burger Company, our main goal is to use grass-fed beef as hamburger patties for burgers first. We also started making loco mocos with it as well. In addition, we use sliced grass-fed sirloin for our Teri and Philly Dip Sandwiches, as well as boneless short ribs and brisket for our braised short rib sandwiches. I have experimented with mountain oysters but didn’t do too well….
Q. What are your favorite grass-fed beef cuts and why?
A: I really like all the different cuts because of the product quality.
Q: Do you let patrons know on your menu they are eating grass-fed beef?
A: Yes, our business plan revolves around the concept of eating local and grass-fed beef.
Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?
A: The great thing about Hawai’i is that it is the true melting pot of world cultures, ideas and food! We have such a diverse food culture that there is always a new favorite for me and it changes all the time. (that’s why I’m so fat-Iove to eat all the time!)
Q: Are you participating in the 2012 Taste?
Honolulu Burger Company is located at 1295 S. Beretania St. in Honolulu, 808-626-5202, www.honoluluburgercom.com.