Q & A with Successful Restaurateur Sam Choy

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Sam Choy

We recently caught up with one of Hawaii’s favorite chefs, Sam Choy, to see how his business is thriving and expanding and we asked him about what surprises he encountered when expanding his business to the mainland US:



Q: Sam, you recently launched the Pineapple Express food truck in Los Angeles, how is your business doing in California? Will you plan to go to other states?

A. Business is doing well! We’ve felt immediately welcomed by Los Angeles and everyone is loving the food. Yes, we are looking at opening trucks in other West Coast states and there is interest in Vegas as well – but everyone from Hawaii wants to go there! Pineapple Express has been great for opening new opportunities for me.

Q. You participated in the “Chopped: Grilling Masters” finale and the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival – what were the highlights of these events?

A. With Chopped, it’s really looking a food on a National level, and giving Chefs a chance to take risks, cook on your feet and experience something new. It helps to keep me motivated! With Los Angeles Food & Wine, its always special to be able to showcase my Hawaiian Heritage Cuisine – this year I made Poke and Moco Loco and the crowds loved it!

Q. Besides your expansion to the mainland, how is your business growing in the islands? What lessons have you learned in Hawaii that you are taking elsewhere?

A. As a Chef, I feel like I am always learning from my surroundings. I feel that Hawaii has enforced an idea of being consistent with my food and driving home the importance of its “authenticity” – with food quality and flavor being the importance of the meal. I want every person who eats my food to feel the Aloha Spirit and transported to the Islands.

Q. What are you doing differently in the Mainland vs. Hawaii either food wise or business wise? What made you want to expand?

A. Basically, it’s a different crowd. More people are judgmental of the business model and the ability to pull it off.

I’ve always had and always will have an affinity for Hawaii, and the opportunity to bring that cooking style with me to major food events around the world is a blessing.

With Pineapple Express, I was inspired by the Lunch Wagons which were hugely popular in my youth, and speaks to the same “Food-Truck Culture” currently on the Mainland.

I’ll always remember going to Giovanni’s and the North Shore Shrimp Trucks, and how that was a huge backbone in shaping Hawaiian cuisine.

Q. Is there anything surprising or interesting or humorous that you want to share with Hawaii readers about your business?

A. The humorous part of opening Pineapple Express is two-fold. First, people are surprised by the quality of food we are putting out – no one is expecting restaurant quality dishes. Second – the name. I’ve never seen the movie “Pineapple Express” but everyone looks at me, and makes jokes from the film. It’s becoming a priority that I watch the movie!

Q. Do you have any advice for local entrepreneurs who may want to grow their business to the mainland?

A. Study the business part first and foremost. Don’t be foolish and sign a deal.

Make sure you know your partners and your common goals – what are the priorities?

Is everything in place. The last thing you want is to find something out after the fact, and be stuck for twenty years.

You always must keep in mind that you don’t want to work for someone besides yourself.


To keep up with Sam Choy’s Pineapple Express and see where they are headed and opening next, visit their Twitter, and Facebook