Memorable meals start with a personal chef who listens to clients

Splurging on the spectacular

By Katherine Nichols


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Peter Foster

PRIVATE CHEF Peter Foster named his company Memoirs because he uses food and social occasions to help people create cherished recollections. "It refers to a memoir written on the five senses as opposed to pen and paper," he said.

Undoubtedly, Foster's unconventional upbringing in a rustic setting -- without television or electricity -- outside California's Bay Area influenced his creativity and flair for culinary adventure. After attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York and cooking in Germany for a year, he decided to move to Hawaii (he also has family on the Big Island).

"What really drew me out here was the lifestyle," said Foster, who also surfs. "And fish is by far my favorite food." For special dishes, he prefers onaga and moi, and often experiments with ingredients of Japanese origin combined with local specialties. "Anything I can find in Chinatown that I can't pronounce, I buy," he laughed.

Mentors have included notable chefs Alan Wong and George Mavrothalassitis, who helped Foster get a job at the Halekulani, where he worked his way up from the carving stations to La Mer.

"I've seen the best Honolulu has to offer through Alan, Mavro and La Mer," said Foster, who decided almost two years ago to start his own business when he began requesting too many days off to cook for private affairs. But he quickly discovered that working directly with clients gave him even more satisfaction than his experience in a restaurant kitchen.

"I try to be flexible and wear different hats for different people," he said. "So the real business comes from word of mouth." Patrons tend to have specific ideas, which they share with Foster over coffee while planning the event. Consequently, Foster does not operate with a set menu. "I've done meals based on what they ate as a kid, or focused on their recent trip to India."

Many of Foster's high-end affairs take place on private yachts, where he prepares five-course meals paired with wine during sunset sails.

No matter what the setting, he said, "there's nothing better than making people happy with food, and being there when they take their first bite."