From Kitchen Stadium to your kitchen, Mark Dacascos–still recognized for his role as the Chairman on Iron Chef America—has launched his Culinary Champions line of refrigerated, ready-to-heat entrees at 30 Costcos in Southern California.
Dacascos, who also plays Wo Fat on Hawaii 5-0, has tapped famed Hawaii chef Alan Wong for his first Costco offerings. Wong’s Pork Adobo, a family-sized box with two 16-ounce entrees for $10.99, is already in stores, and the chef’s Garlic Ginger Teriyaki Chicken, Hawaiian Hoisin Ribs, and Kalua Island Pork are in the works along with fish dishes that are under development. Dacascos also plans to roll out food from other well-known chefs, including Elizabeth Falkner of The Next Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters.
The goal, Dacascos says, is to create an affordable and quick “tasty, entry-level, user-friendly version” of dishes from some of his favorite chefs.
“Life is expensive,” says Dacascos, who’s partnered with his wife Julie on Culinary Champions. “I have a wife and three kids. My wife and I–she’s the main cook in the house, she went to culinary school–try to make them homemade cooking. But between both sons playing soccer and our daughter taking dance and music classes besides our own busy schedules, a lot of the time we’re just under the gun with how long we have to eat and do everything.
“With all the money going out, you want to be able to feed your family a healthy meal within reason, without getting yourself bankrupt. We are a family and we want to eat well and not too expensively. We don’t put out any product that we wouldn’t serve to our own children. We feel like we have a huge market because there are a lot of families that want to eat well but don’t always have time to cook on their own. No food we put in a package will ever come close to anything at Kitchen Stadium or at Alan’s restaurant, but it’s a good option if you don’t have the time to make your own food.”
It also could be a good introduction to ethnic foods. A lot of Costco members, Wong notes, might not know what adobo even is until they taste Wong’s dish. And Dacascos says that he’s really into Thai food right now, so he might work with chefs to add Thai dishes along with Indian food and Italian food to the Culinary Champions mix.
In many ways, Wong is an inspired and personal choice for the start of Culinary Champions.
“He’s really East meets West,” Dacascos says. “He does everything with a little Hawaiian or Polynesian twist. I love his flavors and his sensibility, combining the fruit and the spice. He just takes everything to another level.”
This isn’t just hype. Dacascos and his wife have been eating Wong’s food since the chef opened his flagship Honolulu restaurant in 1995. They were already such fans before they got married in 1998 that they had their wedding dinner at the restaurant. Dacascos raves about Wong’s tomato soup and kalua pig sandwich on The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Now Wong’s food is available at Costcos in Los Feliz, Burbank, Hawthorne, Torrance, Westlake Village, and Northridge, among many other area locations. You can see the up-to-date list of stores here.
Costco is becoming an unlikely source of exclusive dishes for fans of food TV who live in Los Angeles. Padma Lakshmi recently previewed her Easy Exotic Spanish Paella frozen meal at L.A. Costcos.