Steven Horn's former career was as a chef in the White House.
Now, he's in charge of the kitchens and the restaurants of the pink, pyramid-shaped Ka'anapali Beach Club of Diamond Resorts International.
"It was an amazing experience," says the 27-year-old culinarian, who worked with 50 other chefs catering to the leaders of the free world and their families.
“I cooked in the White House three years for George W. Bush and one year for Obama,” says Steven Horn, now executive chef and director of food and beverage for Ka‘anapali Beach Club.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
"I cooked three years for George W. Bush and one year for Obama. I got to travel to 32 different countries and also ran a restaurant in the West Wing, as well as cooked in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center for special functions."
Horn's initial flair for cooking started in high school, where he entered competitions and eventually became Florida state champ. For his tuna wasabi with wheat-berry salad and toasted sesame-seed collard greens, he was flown to Rhode Island in another contest, where he won third place in the nation over 5,000 other entrants.
All the while, he dreamed of being a chef to the president of the United States.
* North Beach Grill: Daily breakfast buffet is open 7 to 10 a.m. Cost is $15 adults, $10 keiki 6 to 12. Oceanfront dining at its best.
* Ohana Bar & Grill: Poolside an casual, it's open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. Live musicians play Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
* Maui Pizza Co.: Located next to Ohana, it's open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for dine-in or carryout to your hotel or condo.
* Kaimana Room: Gourmet and elegant, this room is perfect for private parties. Open to public from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday to Monday.
* For reservations: Call Ka'anapali Beach Club at 661-2000.
But once Horn discovered almost all of the top presidential chefs are U.S. Navy men, he left Johnson & Wales culinary school (where Emeril Lagasse got his start) on a full scholarship and enlisted for the rigors of boot camp.
"I started my Navy career as pastry chef for the captain of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier based in Norfolk, Virginia," says Horn. "Then I was approached by an admiral and got clearance from the Secret Service to get into the White House."
With Bush, Horn traveled to Hokkaido, Japan, to the G8 Summit and went to Rome and Honolulu.
"Bush's all-time favorite snack was peanut butter and honey sandwiches," says Horn. "Every Thursday, he wanted Tex-Mex fare. Overall, Bush was a very healthy eater. Very fit and active."
After Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office, Horn went back to Japan for another G8 Summit, then he followed Air Force One to Cairo, Egypt, and the pyramids and to the Great Wall of China.
"When Obama first got into office, he was really big on burgers," says Horn. "And then, almost daily, he would eat salmon, brown rice and broccoli."
While under the Obama administration, Horn was able to get outside and get his hands in the dirt in the White House garden with first lady, Michelle.
"We're actually starting a garden here on property and getting kids from schools to work on it," he says, obviously enamored by Michelle's stance on healthful eating for children. "One of the things I'm working on now is tutoring high school kids. I've already spent 40 hours with Lahainaluna senior Johlie Anne Misay Pascua."
As for the restaurants at Ka'anapali Beach Club, many of us on Maui find them to be somewhat of a mystery. You see, over the years, the original Embassy Suites changed, turning to mainly a time-share operation, and the resort was out of mind.
"Ka'anapali Beach Club is definitely open to the public," says Horn. "When I first got hired here, I heard this resort used to be such a happening place. My goal is to recapture that with buffets, specials, happy hours and so much more."
For instance, Horn hosts an Aloha Friday barbecue poolside from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with fun and games.
"We grill hamburgers, hot dogs, and sell shave ice, cotton candy and more," he says. "We do happy hour there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and repeat it from 3 to 6 p.m. Fridays. It's really cool!"
The resort also features the Feast by the Sea Hawaiian buffet and show Wednesdays with check-in at 5:30 p.m.
"It's right on the beach and geared toward families," says Horn. "The Akima ohana with Tommy and Noe perform. It's amazing. We do items such as kalua pork and mahi with lilikoi-cream sauce."
The new Maui Pizza Co. debuted this past December. It's intertwined with and adjacent to Ohana Bar & Grill and you may order off of either menu.
"We do not deliver pizza yet, but we are working on it," says Horn. "Pizzas are Hawaiian fusion. Thicker crust than New York style. We have 15 different types of pizzas, wraps, salads, fishes, and we're adding more local food such as loco moco, teriyaki chicken and plate lunches."
The new Kaimana Room features gourmet fare such as filet mignon and opakapaka. It's oceanfront and perfect to rent out for private parties such as graduations, receptions and birthdays.
"We offer 20 percent kamaaina discounts on food and beverage in all of our outlets," says Horn. "And we also offer rentals on our one-bedroom suites."