Crackin’ Kitchen combines the flavors of traditional Cajun cuisine with much more than just a tropical twist. Where you might normally find Anaheim chilies, you’ll taste Hawaiian chilies instead, with Maui sweet onions, oyster sauce or cacao beans. While temptingly comparable Cajun eateries serve their seafood in a bag, Crackin’ Kitchen churns them out hot and fresh, with three unique signature sauces of different spicy or mild blends, “slapped down right at your table,” says Head Chef Jonathan Botello. “No bags to contain the mess. After all, what’s the fun in that?” We got to sit down with Chef Jonathan to get a taste of this unique, and never-beforeimagined, mind-boggling blend.
Thee first ever Hawaiian-Cajun cuisine hits Waikiki
If your first reaction was, “Whaa…?” when you saw “Hawaiian-Cajun,” you are not alone. Food obsessed people that we are, we just had to get the skinny on what that culinary blend meant for our readers’ discerning palates. Enter Head Chef Jonathan Botello of Crackin’ Kitchen.
Chef Jonathan is New York born and Hawaii-raised. Needless to say that gives him a unique avant-garde style in culinary tastes. He’s also one of the coolest guys we’ve ever met, but that might be the cacao and coffee infused signature sauces talking.
What kinds of flavors can we expect from Hawaiian-Cajun cuisine?
Hawaiian-Cajun uses classic Cajun flavors, infused with the Hawaiian Islands’ natural and locally sourced ingredients. For example, take classic Cajun flavors of both spice and citrus—and where you might expect Anaheim chilies, you get Hawaiian chilies instead, along with other substitutions of island flavors like cacao and coffee (both major industries of the Hawaiian Islands), and even the local favorite, oyster sauce.
In that way, we’re beyond Hawaiian-Cajun; we’re also Island Cajun, incorporating the regional flavors that make Hawaii special, and fusing them together with our classic Cajun elements and fresh seafood.
Where do you find the ingredients for such a wide range of pioneering flavors?
Nearly everything we use is locally sourced and everything is made in-house, from the fresh-cut fries to the ginger syrups for happy hour specials. We also revisit the menu to keep it fresh every three weeks or so by collaborating with our concept chef, two-time Michelin Star recipient Takeshi Omae.
How does your team work on this
If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we all specialize in creating a unique dining experience. Many of us have been working together for decades, launching successful, contemporary restaurants across the nation—each with its own personality and flavorful identity. Crackin’ Kitchen is the same in that it will stand uniquely on its own, a concept that cannot be replicated, yet different in all the best ways. It’s what Waikiki needs.
With an open-air patio that provides indoor and outdoor seating, a fresh, contemporary selection of regional fusion, and a happy hour that moves into the C.K. Lounge right next door, Crackin’ Kitchen is getting its hands dirty in the bustling local food scene. It’s a little messy, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.