Name: Anthony Shimura

Hometown: Honolulu, Oʻahu

Resume: BLT Steak, Arancino on Beachwalk, The Street food hall, Herringbone, Kūhiō Ave. food hall

Career goal: Restaurant owner and chef.

Why XO: “I feel like the company has potential. I really trust Kenny. … I went to KCC–thatʻs where I met Kenny. I was helping (him on) the competition team … he was the captain.”

Favorite XO dish: “I love the Adobo Fried Chicken. When I first started, I took fried chicken home to North Shore, so my dad could eat some. I loved the sauce so much that I told Derek, when he was pouring the sauce, ʻYou gotta give me one more cup. I want to go home and be able to bathe in it and come out Filipino.ʻ”

Name: Chris Mundon

Hometown: Silver Springs, Maryland

Resume: Good Guys Bar (WA D.C.). Chuck’s Cellar, Cafe Ono, Hawaiʻi Yacht Club (Honolulu). Insa Korean BBQ (Brooklyn). Blue Note Hawaii, Viaggio, Tony Roma’s (Honolulu)

Career goal: Undecided

Favorite XO dish: Pork Belly Lettuce Wrap. “I love the gochujang aioli and relish it comes with.”

Most challenging dish to make at XO: “The duck, just because of all of the different components when it comes to plating it. You have the waffle, which is halfway across the room in the waffle maker, and there’s just so many different things, the blueberry jam and the duck rillette and the mustard and the duck itself and the garnishes, it’s just a lot of different delicate plating components.”

Name: Daniel “D” Hilliard

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Resume: Cheesecake Factory, Roy’s, Student at UH Mānoa

Career goal: Mechanical engineer.

I’m an engineer, a problem solver. Give me an issue and I can give you a solution A to B. … 100% I’m going to miss cooking.”

Favorite XO dish: “Absolutely the scallops. I’m from the south, born and bred. Seafood is my thing. … Another one that opened my eyes was the crispy, rice patties. [Foie Gras, Salt Roasted Crispy Rice, Gravy]. That one opened my mind, the way it goes together. I was thinking ‘Oh, this is just fried rice, but it’s not.’ When you put it together there’s so many different qualities to it. The way the sauce goes with the patty and then the crispiness on top. Little bit of salty, little bit of savory, fatty … I didn’t expect that one to be so nice.”

XO fun fact: “Everyone has their own side hustles. Which is cool! Make your money! I didn’t realize that Pokemon cards could make so much money.”

Name: Derek Haugen

Hometown: Nu’uanu Valley, Oʻahu

Resume: The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl, Mariposa, Cattle Company Steakhouse

Career Goal: Chef

Funniest mix up at XO: “John was cleaning out the fridge and he was telling Randy, ‘This is chicken fat. Just toss it because we have a lot’ and Randy’s like, ‘No, that’s brown butter for our mochi batter’ and John’s like, ‘No it’s chicken fat. I can clearly see that this is chicken fat’ and Randy decides that he’s going to taste it. The instant it hit his mouth he was like, ‘Yep, that’s chicken fat.’”

Most memorable XO one-liner: “Working in the kitchen you always have to assume that things are hot, so when you touch something you want to make sure you have a towel. Randy, our sous chef, tends to grab things without a towel, so it was just like a funny thing that he said one time. He said, “Hot things make other things hot things.”

Name: Francisco “Cisco” Adolfo

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA

Resume: Manresa, Atelier Crenn, Benu, Humble Market Kitchen, Goen

Career goal: Nurse

Why XO? “For somebody like me who has been in the game for a long time … to go back to a team that is just inspired by cooking ideas and actually finding the outcome, that’s what is more important to me. If the outcome is not favorable, they retry it. They try to look for different perspectives … and digest … It’s not the individual; it’s the team that did everything together … Everything was trial and error together.”

Favorite XO dish: “My favorite dish was Harriʻs [vegan] sausage terrine. I was watching him struggle so hard to make this happen … in the end it was rubbish, but he took that lesson and implemented it into a new restaurant.Also, the bunnies, because everytime someone asks what the chocolate chips are, Kenny says, ‘itʻs poops’ and laughs.”

Name: Lance Aldan

Hometown: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

Resume: Singha Thai Cuisine (by Chef Chai), Angelo Pietro, Genki Sushi, The Pig & the Lady, Kahala Hotel restaurants

Career goal: Music producer and performer (find LA the Truth on Spotify)

What I like about XO: “I like that there’s no departure from who cooks the food to who brings it to the table. I’m confident that when the food hits the table it’s the best thing I could do.”

Funny thing experienced at XO: “I saw Kenny come in with boxes. He was saying, ‘Who needs a scooter?’ Like, those razor scooters. I was like, ‘What is he doing?’ I found out that since he lives nearby, during service we need to go park our cars out on the street, right? So, he has his parking stall in front of his house with spaces for you to park and the scooters are so you don’t have to walk back.”

Name: Nam Nguyen

Hometown: Born in a refugee camp in Batanes, Philippines, while his parents were in transition from Vietnam to the United States. (Raised in Boston, Massachusetts)

Resume: Harvard Clubhouse, Sheraton Hotel and Westin Waterfront Hotel (Boston, MA). Golf Clubhouse (Naples, Fl), Spago (L.A., CA), Roy’s and Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (Waikīkī)

Career goal: Life Coach. “The reason why I became a sous chef is because my biggest thing was that there was a big imbalance between the cooks and the manager. There wasn’t just physical fatigue; there was emotional fatigue that was eating the cooks alive too. Constant yelling and coming home feeling defeated all the time. So, I became the doorway between the cooks and the executive chef. That’s what I did for a long time, just helping them understand and guiding them. I try to learn from them and then when they have problems, try to explain why we do things as a manager. They have to understand it’s also a business too because sometimes they forget that.”

Favorite XO dish: Potato Gratin. “It’s such a simple dish, but the preparation and the thought process behind it was interesting. It wasn’t just a potato au gratin. It’s layered with seaweed and even the sauce is an apple-onion sauce, cooked down with cream. So, there are different layers of depth. And then they put the Portuguese sausage on top. I was like, ‘Hmm, that’s a different way of looking at things.’ I like dishes complex like that.”

Biggest challenge in the kitchen: “The challenge of a small kitchen. I worked in a big kitchen before. I have to strategize differently how to cook here.” 

Name: Ryanne (pronounce Rai-ANN) Hwang

Hometown: Born Wailuki, Maui (Raised in Honolulu, Oʻahu from 2-years-old)

Resume: Roy’s (Hawai’i Kai)

Career goal: Chef

Why XO: “I dined at XO a few times and really liked the food, and I like the concept. They make a lot of things from scratch from the Xiaolongbao dough, pasta. That was something that intrigued me because I want to learn how to make more things from scratch. … John’s taking the time to teach me all these things. I’m like his little protégé, I guess. Everyone’s just really knowledgeable there.”

Favorite XO dish: “Salt roasted crispy rice with the foie gras and foie gras gravy. It was the first time I actually tried foie gras because I was always so scared to try it and it’s actually very good. It’s like a guilty pleasure.”


Name: Alyssa Sahagian

Hometown: Boston, MA

Resume: Grill 23 (Boston), Mopho (New Orleans), Tasty N Alder (Portland), The European (Australia)

Career goal: Restaurant owner. “Oʻahu has no Middle Eastern restaurants. I’m Armenian. I’d like a similar vibe like this, where you’ve got a counter, a nice bar, good food and casual vibes. I guess like a hole-in-the wall, but kinda upscale.”

What’s the weirdest thing you have ever experienced at AV: “Harry is the weirdest thing I have ever experienced at AV for sure.”

Favorite AV dish: “I actually really like the gazpacho sorbet. I feel like it comes at the perfect point in the menu and I like having a savory sorbet. I like that it’s refreshing and has a little bit of spiciness. It’s also just really pretty. When I see pictures of it online I’m proud of it.”

Name: Aiden Raboteau

Hometown: Wichita Falls, Texas (Moved to Oʻahu at age four)

Resume: Chili’s, XO Restaurant

Career goal: Chef. “I want to stay with Kenny as long as I can.”

Why XO: “XO was my favorite restaurant at the time and I wanted to get into that level of dining. I figured, ‘Might as well ask. The worst thing they could say is no.’ I never experienced a restaurant like that before. It’s so different; I got to talk to the cooks because they were the ones running the food and spieling it. I thought that was really cool.”

AV fun fact: “It’s really interesting that we are able to pull off a tasting menu of this caliber in this tiny of a kitchen. We do most of our prep outside of the kitchen in the dining room and upstairs because the kitchen is so small.”