HONOLULU (KHON2) — Isaac Bancaco was recently named the new chief executive of Pacific’o on the beach. You may remember him beating Bobby Flay on Food Network’s Iron Chef America alongside Ming Tsai.
Bancaco comes from Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese and Filipino backgrounds which he says made him the chef he is today.
“At this point in my career, our cuisine and our menu have been inspired by a myriad of experiences and attractions. Some whimsical and risque, some by a memory I grew up with,” Bancaco said. “It’s hard to pin down, but I think finding my place in this culinary community evolved from looking at the food of my peers and realizing how talented they are.”
He said he grew up on the island with a Hawaiian family, he is drawn to the ocean and takes pride in sourcing locally and featuring Hawaiian ingredients in every dish he creates.
“I love tinkering with ideas and food, but really understanding the process and meaning of an ingredient, how it’s grown and how it tastes at its peak plays a huge role in our current menu,” Bancaco said. .
He said Kula and Lahaina’s time sharing during his childhood really foreshadowed his cooking.
The idea of spending his school week surrounded by pastures, produce, farmers and ranchers in Kula and the Maui backcountry, and then traveling to Lahaina for the weekends he enjoyed watching the boats and fishermen coming and going in Lahaina Harbor, unwittingly became the catalyst for opportunity.
“The idea that you could take an ingredient from the mountains and mix it with something from the ocean, or a technique from one culture and cuisine and layer it on another absolutely intrigued me,” said said Bancaco. “It continually opens my senses to an endless palace of ideas.”
During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it is important to see representation in all aspects like media, education, and fine dining.
“It’s important to see representation in all aspects because it shows kids today that they can do and be whatever they want,” Bancaco said. “Not just children, but everyone. Seeing people who look like you doing what you aspire to is incredibly motivating.
He said being on Iron Chef America was exciting. Not only to represent Hawaiian cuisine, but also to represent its Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.
“Iron Chef America is the fastest hour in culinary show business,” Bancaco said. “Five dishes composed for four judges, plus the beauty shots without editing or exchange. I was Ming Tsai’s deputy as he led us to victory.
To be appointed as the chief executive of Pacific’o on the beach is a true homecoming for Bancaco. The restaurant is located on Lahaina’s famous Front Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5-9 p.m.
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