At the Chef’s Table: Joel Harrington of Lanai City Bar & Grille
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Growing up in the small town of Bennington, Vermont, Joel Harrington set his sights on pursuing culinary arts as a career. He never imagined it would allow him to travel the country, but being a chef eventually brought him to Lanai to run Lanai City Bar & Grille.
After high school, Harrington worked at an eclectic Asian restaurant and learned the foundations of Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian cuisine. He enrolled in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York to follow his dream of becoming a chef.
After graduating from the CIA, Harrington spent several years in New York, working as a sous chef for celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson at his Scandinavian-inspired restaurant, Aquavit. He then headed to California with his family to work at the esteemed Ritz Carlton in Dana Point.
Around the country
From Newport to Nashville, Harrington built his career in restaurants across the country, picking up awards and accolades along the way. Following his stint in California, he lived in Arizona, Texas and Colorado before returning to New York to run Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem. He then went to Nashville to develop a restaurant focused on his preferred style of farm-to-table dining.
Harrington moved to Lanai in 2018 to become executive chef of Lanai City Bar & Grille. Chris Graham, Chameron Brent and Sam Haley came out from Nashville to join Harrington in the kitchen and now work alongside the Lanai kitchen staff.
Learning about Lanai
Since arriving on Lanai, Harrington has been learning as much as he can about local food and customs. “Really amazing local residents have taken me under their wing and have taught me so much, like how to build an imu or make lomi salmon.” In addition to Hawaiian food, he has also been exposed to Filipino cuisine, which has become a favorite.
In some ways, Lanai reminds Harrington of his hometown. “I was surprised because it’s so low key, but in some ways, it is like Vermont, especially the hunting aspect and living off the land.”
Harrington looks forward to cooking for all LCBG diners, whether they’re regulars or first-timers, residents or visitors. “I want it to be a neighborhood spot for celebrating special occasions or if people just want a drink, snack or a five-course meal,” he said. “Whether they come for risotto or onion rings. It’s their choice.”
Harrington’s other philosophy is to cook like he would cook for family. “You make everything like you are feeding your mom,” he explained.
He loves cooking with the local ingredients and creating new dishes for diners to try. “I’m very excited to be here on Lanai,” he said. “There’s so much to learn and I’ve enjoyed getting to taste all the different local food. It’s been a great experience so far.”