chef bonita lao
— I am a chef with a deep mission —
I strive to be a bridge that connects people to the food they eat and the land that it comes from. Here in Hawaii we are lucky to enjoy exotic produce and heritage ranching practices. All of our meals aim to bring this Hawaiian experience alive at the table.
I am a first generation Chinese American, raised in my family’s restaurant, Don’s Chinese Kitchen in Waimea. This is where I fell in love with traditional foods like fried rice, roasted duck, and black bean shrimp. I graduated from California Culinary Academy and spent my early career working in high-end kitchens throughout the world, including Nancy Oakes’s Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco, Chef Mavro’s in Honolulu, Long Grain and Lotus in Sydney, Australia, and Badia a Coltibuono in Italy.
Ultimately, I craved working in a place that was more casual and approachable than those high-end restaurants, a place that connected to my heritage. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside with some of the most talented chefs, always pushing the boundaries of great cuisine. When I started my journey as a private chef over a decade ago, my approach was to keep things simple, thoughtful and well prepared. My focus has not changed, only expanded to include more opportunities to bring people together through food.
Today, I carry out my mission as the Chef/Owner of Lao Group, where we provide creative dining experiences through Queens Table Catering & Laulima Food Patch. These businesses allow me to serve great food to a larger audience with the same imagination and quality.
To celebrate food is to celebrate the work of small farmers and producers. Though it may be cheaper to use factory-farmed ingredients shipped from all over the world, the cost to our health and our Island’s ecosystem is real.
Because farming responsibly comes with many challenges, cooking seasonally and supporting local farmers is foundational to our mission, and they make what we do possible. Here are some of the local producers we support:
- Hirabara Farms
- WOW Farms
- Hawaii Dairy Goat Cheese
- Kona Kampachi
- Adaptations Farms
- Hawaii Beef Producers