9 Questions with Chef Ravi of Liholiho Yacht Club

Ever since it opened in January of last year, Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco has been packed with crowds clamoring to feast on Ravi Kapur’s food. His cuisine leans towards being Hawaiian-inspired, but also focuses on Californian and Asian ingredients, and is somehow intimate, casual, playful, and creative all at once.

If you’re lucky enough to grab a seat at the Tendernob spot, Kapur’s twice cooked pork belly is a favorite, as is his play on SPAM-fried rice. Pro tip: you can’t leave without ordering the Baked Hawaii, a remix of Baked Alaska with swirls of torched marshmallow surrounding caramelized pineapple ice cream and a vanilla crust. Yanni Kehagiaras’ island-minded cocktails are also not to be missed.

Baked Hawaii dish, Liholiho Yacht Club, San Francisco, CA
Baked Hawaii, Image courtesy of: Liholiho

We managed to track down the popular—and very busy—chef to ask him a few questions about how he got started in the business and what he loves to eat. Read on to find out how LYC (that’s what the cool kids call it) came about and what food trend annoys him the most.

How and when did you learn how to cook?

Cooking has always been important in my family, especially since delicious food is a lifestyle in Hawaii, but I first started cooking at a pizza place when I was going to college in Texas. I fell in love with the camaraderie and repetition, so much so that I left college to move to San Francisco to go to culinary school.

How did the name and concept for Liholiho Yacht Club come about?

The name was very much inspired by my family. Back in Hawaii in the early 80s, the Kealoha uncles would race Hobie Cats and throw “pop up” parties to pay for their supplies. They would go to the beach, fire up the grill, ice down the beer, and get a band to play. They charged a modest price with the intention of making enough money to allow them to keep doing what they loved. They realized they needed a name for their ‘organization’ and the brothers — who lived on Liholiho street — decided to name it Liholiho Yacht Club. That’s how the modern day Liholiho Yacht Club was born. We loved the name and the idea: Throw a party to allow you to keep doing what you love.

What’s always in your fridge at home?

Sriracha, chili paste, black bean paste, and beer.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Drinking some good IPA and eating chocolate when I get home for the night… but I don’t feel guilty!

What is the single most difficult thing about running a restaurant?

The challenges constantly change, even within one day. I’d say one big one is always staying inspired and keeping the team inspired.

What food trend do you most despise?

Food diet fads that don’t allow people to truly enjoy their meal. Also Instagramming and posting on social media while still at the table. Do it later, enjoy the moment, your friends, and your meal  — life is short!

If the next meal were the last meal of your life, what would it be?

It’s not so much what I’d eat but with whom I’d eat it. I’d like to dine with my immediate and extended family and feast on all the wonderful comfort food I grew up with.

What’s your drink of choice?

I have a few depending on my mood: IPA, a good Boulevardier/Manhattan, and ALWAYS our Skipper by our wonderful Yanni!

How has your experience with Yelp SeatMe been? What made you choose SeatMe over competitors like OpenTable?

We chose SeatMe because it was just starting out and we always like to go with the underdog. Overall it’s been a good experience. There is definitely a learning curve, but we do appreciate the quick response, remedies and follow up!

Ready to run straight to Liholiho to eat, drink and see Chef Ravi in action? This is one of the hottest restaurants in SF and may take some patience but well worth the wait—visit their website or Yelp to make a reservation!