It’s still early at the Commercial Fishing Village at Pier 38, but Honolulu’s top private chef Peter Foster is fueled up on caffeine and picking up his catch of the day at Fresh Island Fish. The top-quality onaga and hamachi are bound for a private dinner party at a swanky Black Point address that same night. It’s the first stop in Foster’s day, as he personally tracks down the freshest ingredients for the five-course meal. Next stop is Chinatown where he searches out rich yellow wonton and crisp, fragrant produce. Then it’s on to his client’s home where the 24-year-old preps the meal that will be served to six people in the ocean-front dining room, complete with wine pairings, waiter service and Bernardaud dinnerware.
Oh, the luxury. Since Foster became a private chef two years ago, Honolulu’s upper crust has been soaking it up. His company, Memoirs, has served up exclusive memories for its clients on boats and beaches, remotes hillsides, lawns and lanais. His clients have flown him to Bangkok, New York and Colorado - just to cook for them. And he’s already booked into next year’s holiday season.
From washing dishes in California at the tender age of 15, his path took him through the Culinary Institute of America and on to top restaurants in Germany, New York and San Francisco. But it was those fish that lured Foster to Hawaii, where under the mentorship of local notables Alan Wong and George Mavrothalassitis, his classical training evolved to embrace the elegant simplicity of island-fresh ingredients.
“I don’t like to overpower the flavor of the fish or the feeling of freshness,” he says. “Just let the fish shine.”
When creating new dishes, Foster finds his epiphanies while jumping off the rocks to go surfing, or sometimes while he’s sitting in Honolulu’s bottleneck traffic. He’s built relationships with local suppliers and is constantly looking to expand his palette of ingredients.
“I’d like to bring the seasons to Hawaii,” he says. “This holiday season I plan on spending a lot of money with Fed Ex, shipping out things that are seasonal on the Mainland that we can’t get here like apples, mushrooms, squash, pumpkins - everything that reminds you of the fall season.”
For Chef Foster, the job is all about the intimate connections that food can forge. He strives to keep his bookings smaller in size - too big and it gets too much like catering, he says with a grimace. His company is called Memoirs because he aims to create an occasion that writes itself on all of his clients’ five senses.
“Your menu is like your memoir, it’s the way the food tastes, your sight, the way you felt, the table conversation - I’ve seen good food turn people who probably hadn’t spoken to each other for years into lovers again,” he says, and starts laughing, “Then they kick me out of the house so fast.”