Hawaii Mom Blog: Gems of Life: Ed Kuoha




March 6, 2020

Gems of Life: Ed Kuoha

I would often see Chef Ed Kuoha, owner of Kuoha Culinary, at events at Gochi Grill. When Chef John (owner of Gochi Grill) brought him up during my Gem’s of Life chat, I thought it would be a great idea to get Chef Ed’s advice and insight on the industry and life in general.

A husband, father, and avid community supporter, Chef Ed did not foresee himself as becoming a chef.  He originally just wanted to cook and have fun wherever he found himself at. Fast forward 20 years later, with experience at numerous venues, such as Morimoto Waikiki, Ko`olau Ballrooms, and M.A.C. 24/7, he has since ventured out on his own, building himself a reputable catering and events company, while learning to adapt and living life with no regrets.

Adapting to industry changes
When you become a chef or manager, you become responsible for everybody; the good and the bad.

When I used to run the kitchens, I was one of the bulls.  It was “my way or the highway.” 

I was darker back then.  I was always a black or white guy.  I was always about hitting my numbers...Everything now is more about being the boss I would want to work for; going out of my way to do nice things for my workers.  

Building relationships
When you run restaurants, you don’t personally develop a relationship with every single guest that comes through your place.

[With my business], every single event, whether it be a birthday, vacation getaway, or destination wedding - I’m involved in that life experience.  I’m a part of that person’s memory for years to come. 

I make money, but I’m not trying to make every single dollar.  It’s more about making that connection with people.  

I keep the circle tight.

I have to be able to trust that you know how I want to do things.

My name is on the company.  If you book with me, I’m going to be at your event.  I take a lot of accountability. I’m going to be there to make sure there are no problems.  

Everyone is telling me to expand, but I rather protect the brand.  

Doing it the right way - always
I learned this from my dad - always do something the right way; do quality work whether somebody’s there or not.  I feel like that’s what kind of separated me from a lot of guys.  I always tried to do it the right way no matter what. 

The best revenge
Everybody was always dogging on me in culinary school.  “You should stay out brah, you’re so sh***y...you should stop cooking.”

I never stopped.  I just kept doing it.  Little by little I got better.  Fast forward to today...a lot of the guys that were telling me that, they got out of the industry a long time ago.

The best revenge is you stick it out and you become better than them when they quit. 

Have pride in your work 
When I was grinding out I wasn’t making that good money.  We’d do stuff for free or work extra hours because we want to learn from the chefs.  

You have to be committed and not have money drive you.  What should drive you is learning as much as you can and putting out really delicious, consistent food.  

The challenges of a catering chef
If you’re a catering chef you’re frowned upon. 

Anyone can run a restaurant with the same kitchen, the same staff, the same menu.

Try and run different menus with different bodies [as a catering chef]. You’re way stronger than the guy who runs a restaurant.   

Having no regrets
There were dark times.  Everything goes to the back burner except for this job...It’s a demanding lifestyle.  You don’t see your family. Life changes you. Perspectives change as you get older.  

I was fortunate to find my own way.  I can’t see myself doing anything else.

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