Senia, in Honolulu, Hawaii, is what happens when pedigreed chefs open a restaurant with the singular goal of making people happy. In this episode of Cooking in America, Eater — along with host and Hawaii native son Sheldon Simeon — stopped by to see what makes it just so special.
Before opening Senia, co-owners and chefs Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush worked at some of the most well-respected (and most expensive) restaurants in the world. They met while working at Per Se in New York City, and formed a strong bond right away. According to Kajioka, “[Rush] was actually my boss at Per Se; I always thought he was the best person I’ve cooked with.” They agreed to open a restaurant together over text message, and never looked back.
Although Kajioka valued his time training in the continental U.S., he wanted to bring his cooking technique back home. “I think everyone from Hawaii wants to prove themselves,” he tells Simeon. “We feel like we’re the little brother to San Francisco and New York.” He wanted to create a place with high-quality food and distinctly Hawaiian values. His goal was to create a place that locals could go every night, not just on special occasions, because “if your friends can’t come to eat, then what’s the point?”