Dave Kodama was born and raised on Oahu, a third generation Japanese American who thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a civil engineer. But his life took a different path. In 1979, needing a break from his engineering studies at the University of Hawaii, he moved to Seattle and began work as a bartender. The convivial atmosphere and excitement of the restaurant business proved no match to a career as an engineer. In the restaurant business he found an ideal outlet that fostered his love of food and people.
Kodama ended up spending three years in Seattle and then moved to Aspen, Colorado where he lived for 10 years. During Aspen’s off-season, he traveled around the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean, eating and learning all he could about food. During this decade, he refined his culinary skills and gained the knowledge that would later help him as a restaurateur.
In 1995 D.K. returned to Hawaii and opened his first restaurant, Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar in March of 1996 at the Kapalua Resorts on Maui. His concept of providing contemporary sushi and innovative fusion seafood in a fun and lively setting was an instant success. Sansei’s awards and accolades include a prestigious 90 rating in Wine Spectator, the highest food rating in both the 1998 and 1999 Zagat Hawai’i Restaurant Surveys, numerous consecutive HONOLULU magazine Hale ‘Aina Awards, inclusion as one of Bon Appetit’s “Favorite Asian Restaurants” and one of “America’s Best Sushi Bars” in Travel + Leisure. In 2000 and 2002 Kodama opened a second and third Sansei, on Oahu and Kihei, Maui.
In keeping with his love of food and people, in 2003 Kodama partnered with Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya to open Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar in the Kapalua Resorts. A second Vino was opened in Honolulu in 2004. The original Maui location closed in 2007 due to resort renovations.
In September 2004, Kodama expanded his business by moving Sansei at Restaurant Row to the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa and opening d.k Steak along with Sansei at the new Waikiki location.
D.K. Kodama is also the author of D.K.’s Sushi Chronicles from Hawai’i: Recipes from Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, published by Ten Speed Press.
Today, D.K. Kodama owns six restaurants in Hawaii and continues to look for new opportunities that further his commitment of providing guests with great food and excellent service at the best value.
In 1988 Chuck Furuya became only the tenth person in the United States to pass the rigorous Master Sommelier examination. At the time, Furuya was working at the highly acclaimed Bagwell’s 2424 in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. But it was his passion to fully at excel at wine service and education that led him on the path to certification as a Master Sommelier.
Furuya first began working in restaurants while attending college as a way to earn extra income. But wine and food became his passion and he ended up working for some of Hawaii’s most highly regarded establishments including Bagwell’s 2424 in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, La Mer at the Halekulani, and serving as cellarmaster at the former Kahala Hilton.
Sharing a mutual passion for wine and food and a desire to create exceptional, quality dining at reasonable prices, restaurateur D.K. Kodama and Chuck Furuya began collaborating in 2003. Their first joint venture, Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar at the Kapalua Resorts on Maui, was an immediate success. And in 2004 they opened a second Vino and a Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas at Restaurant Row in Honolulu.
A noted expert on pairing wines with Pacific Rim cuisine, Furuya created the pairings and wrote the wine introduction for the first Hawaii regional cuisine cookbook, The New Cuisine of Hawaii. He has worked at special events with virtually every celebrity chef in America; Thomas Keller, Nancy Oakes, Marcel Desaulniers, Jean Louis Palladin, Charlie Trotter, Emeril Lagasse, Ming Tsai, Norman van Aken, Mark Militello, Rick Bayless, Bradley Ogden, Douglas Rodriguez, Bobby Flay and Joachim Splichal, as well as with Hawaii’s own big names – Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Furuya is a co-host of i Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, a weekly PBS television cooking show broadcast in all 50 states.
Educating people about wine and discovering new talent is what brings him the most satisfaction. “I love finding new wines, especially great values. I love pairing wines with foods. But most of all I love teaching.”
He is consistently asked to judge national and international wine events. He trains restaurant staff and presents public tastings throughout the state. As the former Chairman of Education for the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, he was nationally involved in wine education and certification.
Furuya serves as wine director for all DK Restaurants.
Originally from Hilo, Hawaii, Chef Keith Endo is probably one of the last chefs you’d expect to cook excellent, authentic Italian food. As a child, Endo’s parents were constantly working, so he learned to cook for himself by 12 years old. With his cooking talents firmly rooted, Endo knew that he would eventually have to move away from his hometown of Hilo. “The food scene [there] is very low key,” he says. “In order for my career to grow I needed to move away.” Endo’s first move (after graduating from Kapiolani Community College with a culinary degree) was not very far, hopping on a plane to Maui to work as a sushi chef at Sansei.
However, bigger moves were soon in store for Endo. When Hawaiian Restaurateur D.K. Kodama (owner of Sansei) and Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya opened Mediterranean bistro Vino, Endo was chosen to be its chef. Endo, who had no training in Italian cuisine, traveled to San Francisco to learn pasta-making at Seven Hills. In 2010 he visited Italy—exploring markets and restaurants in Venice, Rome, and Campania—to get a sense of the importance of fresh, locally sourced product and the simplicity of Italian cuisine. Today, Endo is a shy but formidable force in the Hawaiian scene, putting out fresh pasta and intriguing takes on local dishes using Italian influences.