Chew on This

Michelin-starred chef hits local food truck scene

July 20th, 2016
Ben Jenkins, left, will be executive chef at STRIPSTEAK, one of 17 restaurant concepts by Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Michael Mina, (center). Ron Bonifacio, (right), will serve as the upscale restaurant's general manager. Photo by Erika Engle.

Ben Jenkins, left, will be executive chef at STRIPSTEAK, one of 17 restaurant concepts by Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Michael Mina, (center). Ron Bonifacio, (right), will serve as the upscale restaurant's general manager. Photo by Erika Engle.

To give local people a small taste of what they can expect at STRIPSTEAK by Michael Mina at the International Market Place in August, free Maui onion cheeseburger sliders; BBQ pork spare ribs & charred Mexican street corn; chilled shrimp & onaga bowls, and samples of coconut milk horchata and chef-made “Hawaiian Punch” are being handed out at the corner of Alakea and Beretania Streets until 1 p.m. today, or while supplies last. You will have additional opportunities this afternoon and tomorrow -- so keep reading.

A sample of Michael Mina's BBQ pork rib with charred Mexican street corn was savory, a tad sweet, and its kick of spice came from a brunoise, or fine dice of fresh jalapeno peppers, among other seasonings. Photo by Jose Rodrigues.

A sample of Michael Mina's BBQ pork rib with charred Mexican street corn was savory, a tad sweet, and its kick of spice came from a brunoise, or fine dice of fresh jalapeno peppers, among other seasonings. Photo by Jose Rodrigues.

A bright orange and white food truck parked in a reserved space in a private parking lot, and inside chef Ben Jenkins and his culinary team endured the heat of the morning without the benefit of cooling tradewinds that were blowing about outside, to prepare ribs, sliders and a chilled shrimp and onaga dish. Mina recruited Jenkins from the Michelin-starred Michael Mina restaurant in Las Vegas, to open STRIPSTEAK in Waikiki. Jenkins has been with Mina Group for 18 years, while the restaurant's General Manager Ron Bonifacio, makes the move to Hawaii after opening more than 10 restaurants for the company on the mainland, Bonifacio said.

STRIPSTEAK Hawaii Executive Chef Ben Jenkins holds samples of Maui onion cheeseburger sliders and chilled shrimp & onaga bowls prior to lunch service today. Photo by Erika Engle.

STRIPSTEAK Hawaii Executive Chef Ben Jenkins holds samples of Maui onion cheeseburger sliders and chilled shrimp and onaga bowls prior to lunch service today. Photo by Erika Engle.

The two words "free food" are always a draw, but the words gain a special heft when said food is by a globally known chef and his team.

Anyone who did not make it downtown during lunch hour today can head to Kakaako for the truck's so-called "Happy Hour" from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. this evening at the Honolulu Farmers Market at Blaisdell Center.

Two more opportunities await on Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. downtown at King and Punchbowl Streets, and from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Kewalo Basin at the Makers & Tasters Food Park at 1011 Ala Moana Blvd.

Mina's STRIPSTEAK Hawaii will open at the International Market Place on August 25, alongside dozens of other upscale dining and retail shopping options in the center redeveloped by Michigan-based Taubman Centers. Mina also is spearheading "The Street" at IMP, which the marketing folks are calling a multi-concept gourmet social house. Think Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, only with many varied types of cuisines from around the world. Food halls like these are a growing trend across the mainland.

Mina's plans call for a dozen to 18 vendors in The Street, some of which will be permanent, while others will occupy spaces on a rotating basis, Mina said.

Mina has been a regular visitor to Hawaii for decades, honeymooned with his wife here, and comes at least twice a year. "We tried once to take a vacation somewhere else," Mina said. "We don't try anymore," the family always comes to Hawaii, he said, smiling.

Having arrived last night for this business trip, he and some members of his team ate at MW Restaurant, owned and operated by Alan Wong's alumni Michelle Kerr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka, and Mina raved about every aspect of the experience from "the hospitality to the quality of the food … it was a great dinner," he said.

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