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Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2012

20 emerging leaders in local businesses, nonprofits, government, education and law

(page 4 of 21)

Photo: Courtesy of Ed Kenney

ED KENNEY  age 43

Chef/owner, Town Kaimuki and Downtown @ the HISAM

You could say the performing bug skipped a generation in the Kenney family.

Chef Ed Kenney’s parents, Beverly Noa and Ed Kenney, headlined at the Royal Hawaiian and Halekulani hotels. Now his children, Celia and Duke, are hitting the stage, with Celia recently playing opposite George Clooney in “The Descendants.”

But for Kenney the chef, singing only happens in the shower with the doors closed, although he attributes where he is now to his parents’ career.

“When I was a kid and my folks were entertaining in Waikiki hotels, I’d get spoiled eating continental cuisine. The Halekulani buffet, eating petit filet mignon, was a regular thing for me,” he says.

Since the stage wasn’t his passion, he earned a business degree, took a job in commercial real estate and joined the Reyn Spooner crowd in downtown Honolulu. It wasn’t until he traveled the world that Kenney had a revelation.

“All over southeast Asia, Nepal, Australia … the common denominator was cooking and eating. I saw the power that food has to bring people together,” he says. That’s when he realized he wanted to feed people. An article about Northern California chef Alice Waters and the farm-to-table movement helped him identify his culinary philosophy.

Now with two popular restaurants, Town Kaimuki and Downtown @ the HISAM, he uses food as a vehicle to reconnect people to the Earth and to each other. His motto is, “Local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.”

Friend and customer Nathan Kam says Kenney not only supports Hawaii’s farmers by putting as many local ingredients as possible on his menu each day, but he thrives on building relationships with co-producers.

Most recently, Kenney was entrusted to prepare a variety of meals for Honolulu’s APEC meetings in November, including first lady Michelle Obama’s “Farm to Table” luncheon for the spouses of APEC dignitaries.

“It was an honor for me to cook for her and it’s something I’ve wanted to do, but not something I actively pursued. I was fortunate that the opportunity just presented itself.”

— SYH

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