Chef Mark Noguchi is many things to many people: nationally-renowned chef, defender of Hawaiian culinary traditions, cultural educator and local food proponent, just to name a few.
Born and raised in Hawai’i, his love for good food goes hand-in-hand with his mission to promote traditional methods of sourcing, preparing, and serving meals. Mark’s journey has taken him through several business ventures, from the He’eia Pier General Store & Deli along the stunning shores of O‘ahu’s east side, to LunchBox, the Hawaiian Airlines corporate employee cafe.
Today, as co-founder of Pili Group with his wife Amanda, Mark is illuminating the diverse culture of Hawai‘i through catering, culinary workshops and community gatherings. Pili Group is dedicated to creating a world of food with integrity, and the community of farmers, fishermen and other food artisans that Pili supports through its work has garnered national attention. Their newest program, Food Therapy®, is helping native and non-native people throughout Hawai‘i rediscover their heritage through intimate, hands-on cooking groups.
In Mark’s view, you can honor history and still thoughtfully improve upon it, which is why you’ll find him making traditional meals with a modern touch. Noshing a bowl of luau stew or a fingerful of poi is inseparable from learning the story and people behind it. When you’re with Mark, whether it’s local meat, fish, or vegetables, eating well is as much about building community as it is the culinary experience.
While Mark is always happy to see Hawai’i’s traditions transcend its shores, you might want to avoid the topic of poke. Poke (pronounced POH-kay), a local dish made with raw, locally-caught fish, has exploded on the mainland United States. As chains have started to sell mass-produced poke, they’ve changed the way the word is written (‘poké’, with an accent over the ‘e’) and have marketed the dish as a Hawaiian staple without understanding its cultural significance or its environmental impact. While this kind of misrepresentation is disappointing, it presents a unique opportunity to tell Hawai’i’s story on the world stage, including our responsibility to the communal resources that feed us.
No matter how you look at Chef Mark Noguchi’s life, one thing is certain: authentic, traditional Hawaiian food is more relevant (and delicious) than ever throughout Hawai‘i, and abroad, thanks to his work.