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James Aptakin, Hilton Waikiki Beach Exec Chef: Ten Questions

One of the many wonderful things about a trip to Hawaii is being able to eat their incredible food. There are taste sensations and island flavours that are hard to find anywhere else in the world, adding an extra dimension to a holiday in this tropical paradise.

James Aptakin worked around America, including cooking for thousands of Navy personnel a day in an aircraft carrier, before moving to Hawaii where he is now the head chef for the Hilton Waikiki Beach.

The hotel’s restaurant, MAC 24/7 serves modern American cuisine with a local twist, and you can often see people trying to take on the MAC Daddy Pancake challenge and eat three 14-inch pancakes in 90 minutes. As someone who couldn’t even finish their regular sized (and rather delicious) red velvet pancake, I say the MAC Daddy would be a great one to share with a few friends.

Here James takes time out to share his answers to Ten Questions:

James Aptakin, Head Chef, Hilton Waikiki Beach

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with the Ohana – our team members are our family and creating inspiration is a daily joy.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?

I wish there was more time in the day.

What’s something about your role that you wish people understood?

The joy and the passion is what makes it all worthwhile; I want to make it right.

What’s your favourite thing to do on your day off?

Explore new culinary options and be inspired by food.

What’s a cheap and cheerful food secret you (usually) only tell your friends?

Hawaiian Black Sea Salt.

If money was no object, where would you go for lunch or dinner?

Atelier Crenn in San Francisco … but she is only open for dinner.

Where do you take a friend when they come to visit?

Hike off Laie point …but probably my kitchen! …or perhaps a garlic shrimp food truck on the North Shore.

What’s the best shopping experience in town?

The KCC Farmers Market located at Kapiolani Community College at the base of Diamond Head crater. Open Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings until 11:30am Get there early for the best selection and eats!

Is there a local tourist cliché that’s actually worth doing?

Waikiki Beach. It is beautiful and everything the travel magazines say it is.

Is there a tourist attraction nearby that you can’t believe you still haven’t visited yourself?

Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island.


Amanda met James Aptakin when she stayed as a guest at the Hilton Waikiki Beach. She would also like to thank Hawaiian Airlines for their assistance in making her first Hawaiian adventure a reality. 

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  1. Best Chef on the Island, brah! Serves a mean Poke dish, and Ahi Won ton. He puts the P in Passion for food..