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Local Flair

By Meghan Thibault

Photo by Kicka Witte

09.15.17

Kaua‘i native Noelani Planas came home in 2013 after years spent in Las Vegas under the tutelage of the likes of lauded chefs Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck and Joël Robuchon.

Kaua‘i native Noelani Planas came home in 2013 after years spent in Las Vegas under the tutelage of the likes of lauded chefs Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck and Joël Robuchon. Back on the Garden Isle, she calls Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Jean-Marie Josselin her mentors. She infuses the precision of her classic French technique– learned through long practice–with Pacific Rim culinary stylings, and her own local flair. Her vision is brought to full expression in her first turn as an executive chef at the acclaimed Red Salt, where she has unveiled a revamped menu. Ko‘a Kea Hotel & Resort, 2251 Po‘ipu Road, Po‘ipu, Kaua‘i, 828.8888

What was your vision in 
redesigning the menu?
I asked myself, ‘How can I do this my way­—make it local and appealing for both tourists and locals?’ I kept that thought in mind for every single item. I want tourists to come and experience local dishes but still have some familiar ingredients that are in their comfort zone.

What are your favorite local ingredients to use?
I love using ali‘i and Hāmākua mushrooms, which weren’t available in Las Vegas. I use them in our grilled vegetable platter and in our ali‘i braised short ribs.

What are your favorite dishes 
on the menu?
The crispy whole snapper. My dad taught us to catch and clean fish when I was growing up. At Red Salt, we use locally caught, Pacific red snapper, called to‘au locally. I lightly bread it and fry the whole fish with a few thin slices of ginger layered into it. It’s served wedged between ginger-infused sticky rice, with simply sauteed Hāmākua and shimeji mushrooms. It’s finished with a soy-sesame-ginger sauce, served tableside, so the fish stays extra crispy.