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Top chef back on Lanai with goal of promoting its local products

October 12, 2011 - Carla Tracy

The delicate ruby snapper was baked in a crust of olive tapenade and served over a bed of al dente potato gnocchi with fresh tomato and olive relish. Called onaga in Hawaiian, the fish was flaky and aromatic and cooked to perfection.

The quality of the meal was what one would expect to be served at Fresco, the newest restaurant experience at Four Seasons Resorts Lana‘i at Manele Bay.

But I was in for a surprise. The chef cooking the meal was none other than Henry Clay Richardson, who came out of the kitchen to chat with us. Many of you may remember Clay, as most people call him, as the former chef-owner of Hotel Lanai and executive chef of Maui resorts such as the Westin Maui Resort & Spa and the old Kapalua Bay Hotel as well as Gerard’s French restaurant in Lahaina.

Now, this high-caliber chef is back on Lanai and he’s raising the bar.

“Jackie, my wife of 28 years, and I sold Hotel Lanai and Henry Clay's Rotisserie back in May of 2007,” says the seasoned chef. “Stephanie, our oldest, was in college with Clayton, Ashley and Tyler soon to enter.”

So the couple brought the remaining three children to join Stephanie in Arizona “to set up headquarters” and “to provide ohana support for their educational pursuits.”

“Our children attended school and each had a part time job,” says Clay. “Of course, working in a restaurant was in their blood.

Meantime, “Jackie played tennis as a member of three leagues, I cooked dinner every night for three months, until an old friend called to offer a position at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College in Scottsdale.”

Clay became instructor in charge of running L'ecole, the student-operated restaurant that was French inspired with a three-star rating from AAA.

“It was a cool set up where we guided the students through service of five-course meals where all preparations were produced by in house. Our budget allowed us to use the finest ingredients like Kurobuta pork, organic poulet rouge, and flown in fresh fish.”

Clay remained there for nearly three years until getting into consulting.

“I worked with an all plant based restaurant group, then turned a 180 working with a professional athlete training facility, until the NFL lock out slowed things up.”

“During those four years, since we still owned our Lanai home, we were able to visit. So, the islands remained on our minds. I started speaking more about being on Lanai and the hunting, fishing and gardening almost everyday.”

“The oldest was out of college and the other three were doing fine. When Jackie said that she would be okay with being back on Lanai, I booked a flight out to return in March; before she could change her mind.”

“Upon returning and seeing how the residents were effected by the economic condition, I started reworking some old ideas of establishing a community-based business incubator geared toward creating opportunities for micro-farmers and small start-ups to produce value-added ‘made on Lanai’ products.

His long-term goal is to build sustainable food sources and exports from Lanai.

But just like his children, restaurants are in his blood. “After speaking at a Lanai community meeting, Four Seasons management offered a position, where I have been for nearly six months.”

But Clay is still pursuing his personal dream.

“We have expanded the community kitchen plan to include small office spaces, a multi-purpose room and a studio styled kitchen for instruction and cooking demos,” he says. “My partner, Alberta De Jetley, owns the largest farm on Lanai.”

“We’ve been working with Castle & Cooke to identify space, and with The Agribusiness Incubator Program out of UH, to develop our plan and secure funding.

“In my mind, it is a done deal,” says Clay. “I can see the finished operation, smell and taste the products being prepared, feel new soil after tilling, and hear the excitement of new small business owners. But of course we are only at the beginning of the process. We will operate as a non-profit so are seeking grants, funding and donations.”

For more details, you may reach Clay at


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Chef Henry Clay Richardson and Mark Tracy at Fresco, the oceanfront restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Manele Bay