Congratulations to Robynne Maii ‘92! The chef of Chinatown’s Fête and Waikīkī’s Heyday was awarded the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific in mid-June. Maii is the first female chef from Hawai‘i to win a James Beard Award.
She shares her thoughts about her historic win.
How does it feel to be honored with a James Beard Award?
It is a big, big honor to be named a winner for the James Beard Awards Best Chef category. After years of working in this industry, it’s really easy to get in your head. To be recognized for all of the hard work and sacrifice it has taken to get here, it is truly a huge honor.
What’s your reaction to being the first woman from Hawai‘i, who is also of native Hawaiian heritage, to be honored?
Historically, minorities have received very little recognition for their achievements, so I see this as my kuleana as someone who is of both Hawaiian and Korean heritage to be able to represent women of color and advance historically marginalized communities to the forefront of the conversation. This is especially significant to me when talking about food. In Hawai‘i, cooking is a way to celebrate food and honor our cultural heritage that strengthens communities.
What role do you think Punahou played in leading you to where you are today in your entrepreneurial and culinary journey?
I attended Punahou School from kindergarten through sixth grade, and it helped cultivate a sense of community with those around me. Beyond my years as a student there, I support my community by helping to advance my industry as much as possible. At Fête, we strive to provide benefits such as maternity leave and fair wages, and support our local producers, farmers and ranchers through our menu ingredients.