For almost two years now, I’ve known Shaymus Alwin socially — in a way that makes writing his full name out like that feel weird. He happens to be getting married in October to my #bridesis and coworker Nikki Thommes, one of the great designers we have who help to put Metro (and many other publications) together every week.
When she first told me about Alwin and his role as chef de cuisine of Azure Restaurant at The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, you might correctly assume that I was pretty stoked. Oh, the food I couldn’t wait to get my hands on — and Alwin has not disappointed. In these two-ish years, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling some of his home-cooked dishes, and my god, they are good.
I fondly recall an ‘ulu salad, prepared like a potato salad, that I think I ate a majority of. Most recently at a birthday barbecue, he grilled ribs that were so tender and succulent that my fiancé asked if he could move in with Alwin and Thommes. Even something as simple as his grilled vegetables have turned out a thousand times better than mine ever could.
So when I found out that Alwin had landed a gig cooking at James Beard House in New York in early September, I not only was not surprised, I was thrilled — and so is Alwin.
“Amazing is like an understatement,” he says of the opportunity, at a loss for words. “It’s like a dream.”
To know who Alwin is as a chef is to understand what his life was like growing up in Maine. His father was a lobsterman and his mother, Alwin tells me, always could be found in the kitchen cooking up something.
“There was one saying in the house and that was, ‘We may not have all the toys and everything else, but we’ll always eat well,'” he says.
It was from his mother that Alwin learned to cook his first dish ever: a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. One thing led to another, and Alwin found himself moving to Hawaii on a whim about 16 years ago. Long story short, Alwin fell in love with the island, and it’s exactly that marriage between his life in Maine and Hawaii that Alwin will put on display at James Beard House.
Since I’ve only ever seen Alwin in casual settings and not in his element, whipping things up in a high-energy kitchen, I turned to those who have.
“I’m very proud of Alwin for getting an opportunity to cook at the (James) Beard House,” says 40 Carrots at Bloomingdale’s chef Jon Matsubara, who previously helmed Azure Restaurant and worked with Alwin. “Alwin has a good palate and an eye for presentation. Not all chefs can create dishes with power and finesse. He is one of them.”
“As I began working at The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, chef Shaymus Alwin and I instantly clicked, and I found a chef that was almost exactly like me in the kitchen,” adds The Royal Hawaiian executive chef Colin Hazama. “His keen sense of kitchen awareness, his attention to detail, and his out-of-the-box creativity. But what’s most admirable to me is his passion for fresh and local sourcing of products. Shaymus can conceptualize and put a dish together in seconds and all his flavors are explosive. His teaching and following up with staff is what makes the consistency of the food in Azure Restaurant outstanding. To me, he carries all the qualities you want in a great chef, and his raw talent and great heart make him very special.”
Food aside, there is one other thing that must be said about Alwin. He is such a nice guy — the kind of amiable, top-rate chef who eagerly asks for more of my shoddy Jell-O shots. I think that has to be another big reason why his food always is so good.
SNEAK PEEK DINNER
Can’t make it to New York to sample the meal Alwin will present at James Beard House? It’s OK, neither can I.
You can, however, buy tickets now to a special preview dinner, set to take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 at Azure Restaurant in The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort. The meal will showcase some of the items Alwin will be preparing in New York, like the Keahole Lobster Brioche (pictured). It features Kona lobster poached in aromatics and topped with a truffle aioli and Meyer lemon preserve, served chilled atop a housemade brioche toasted with chervil brown butter and finished with tobiko. Yeah, I’m salivating, too, right now.
“The inspiration for that is from Maine,” he says. “I was trying to think of something that could be a creative way of doing a lobster roll itself by breaking down the components and recreating the same textures and mouth-feel for a lobster roll.”
Yum. Now to convince the fiancé to buy tickets to that preview dinner…
Reserve your seat for the Sept. 1 event by finding Azure Restaurant on Open Table and indicating that it is for the James Beard House preview dinner.