Life is full of stories that live on and find new expressions once again. Chef Cary Peterson has included some of his stories into his Kohala Burger & Taco Restaurant in Kawaihae; you can find them not only in the interior decorations, but also in the menu and the names chosen for the dishes as well as in his business philosophy and love for nostalgic decorations.
Much of it goes back to Lake Tahoe, to his parents' Cantina Restaurants and his early memories of eating out. “Everything comes full circle and has a story,” says Chef Cary, “it is all connected”.
One of his first culinary experiences that left an impression on him was a cornish game hen that he was served for his 13th birthday at “La Petit Pier” in Tahoe. Many years later his wife began to work at this very place and even Cary spent some months working there, which was in the last summer of the restaurant's existence. This is where he learned at a young age that “food can be much more than just going out eating.” This is why he still delivers an experience and a that special "feel good" atmosphere besides serving up delicious treats. It is all a part of it. Even his first job as a chef was here in Kawaihae in 1991.
Cary grew up in his parent's kitchen and from early on helped out in their Mexican restaurant, where he learned all about the rustic recipes of Mexican home-style cooking. “I have too much respect for the cuisine to call what I do now 'Mexican' food,” he says. Yet he still refines the techniques and flavors of his youth, much to the pleasure of his guests at KBAT. Chef Cary lived right behind the "world famous" Char Pit restaurant in Tahoe long before he owned it. He remembers playing video games there in his young years while hanging out with friends; picking up change that fell through the cracks of the wooden floor with his brother and has quite a few anecdotes to tell about that time. Once again, full circle. “The Char Pit influenced me long before I owned it!”
Some of the recipes used in KBAT originated there. The thousand island dressing, the cole slaw, the Baja Style Fish Tacos and the Standard Burger are the same as he served them there.
His San Diego Style fish tacos got their name to remind of their origin. While in Southern California he went on a quest to find the best fish tacos around and found them at the old “Don Bahia” restaurant in San Diego. Now they are served in Kawaihae!
The pork carnitas style tacos come with the memory of his family's restaurant where they slow-cooked them the same way decades ago.
There are no coincidences or random items at KBAT. Next time you eat there, ask Chef Cary to share some of his stories with you and make your visit even more memorable.