At the young age of 38, Chef Kevin Erving has spent the majority of his career at top tier restaurants. After he graduated from the acclaimed Art Institute of Seattle, the chef worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle for 10 years before moving on to the Ritz Carlton, also a Four Seasons Hotel, in Chicago as the Executive Sous Chef for another decade. Before moving to Hawaii, he spent a year working in Vancouver. He has been at his current position since June 2011.
Chef Erving is used to living in extreme environments. His repertoire as a chef with the Four Seasons includes establishments in Canada and Hawaii, where he now presides over seven food and beverage locations at the Four Seasons Resort Lana`i at Manele Bay and Four Seasons Resort Lana`i, The Lodge at Koele. However, obtaining fresh ingredients has always been his main goal, and he uses that challenge to keep things exciting on his menus.
At a resort that most people frequent year after year, how do you mix it up?
It’s very challenging because here we have a very captive audience, they can’t go anywhere. So we have a variety of restaurants that we have and our offerings so sometimes it’s very challenging to appeal to everybody. We try to appeal to families and kids, as well as fine dining and people who just want a casual dinner or a fine steak. We constantly change and evolve our restaurant. We used to have Hawaiian themed restaurant which was a blend of flavors of the Pacific rim cuisines. It was very well received for several years but kind of fell off people didn’t want that anymore then we tried steakhouse concept which was very popular and well received.
The lodge is so different than the environment down here, do you have a totally different perspective on what you do there versus here?
Here it’s like there are two totally different environments; you have the beach crowd who are down here and want beach and sun and pineapple and coconuts, and then you have the quieter, lodge crowd, which is so peaceful and tranquil. When you walk into the lodge, it feels like you’re in a library because it’s just serene. The menus are totally different; its 10 degrees colder up at the lodge so the menus are a little bit heartier with thick cut bacon and turkey potpie.
You are very big on local and sustainable food. How do you interact with the fishermen here?
Actually that part is the easiest part of my job. The farmers are a little bit harder because I’m isolated, but I’ll usually take two or three trips on the ferry over to Maui per year. But I’ve taken one trip since I’ve been here and went over to Kona. I went around with one of the chefs over there who showed me around and introduced me to farmers he uses so I could build some relationships. There are so many different climate zones on the big island and so many products because of the elevation. You can almost grow anything there they grow anywhere in the world.
But the fishermen are the neatest things. There are three guys on the island who are local, and they basically give us a call and say, “Hey, I’ve got ono opaca, akoo,” and I show up while they back down in the loading dock. I go down there with a scale, and collect the fish. It’s literally been out of the water for three hours.
Do you ever go back to the mainland? What restaurants do you like there?
I went back to LA and ate at The Animal, which was very good, Carnival and Fig & Olive. The Four Seasons restaurants are definitely going in a more contemporary direction with more fast, clean and simple flavors.
I saw you’ve got a couple ratings in Chicago on Food Mafia. What are your favorites?
I used to like to go to Fat Willies on Western for pulled pork, brisket and ribs. A great local sandwich place is Costellos. I also love Mia Francesca and Prairie Grass. I really like the Purple Pig, it’s such a neat concept.
What about New York or San Francisco?
I haven’t been to New York, and It’s been a few years since I’ve been to San Francisco. As a kid, my grandparents were foodies so they used to drive around to Patrini’s for homemade hot dogs then we’d go over to Salcalito for a shrimp sandwich on soft rye bread that my grandfather had to have.
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