On Media Day on Maui for the Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival, I was hoping to meet some women chefs. I believe Chef Niki Nakayama of n/naka in Los Angeles was scheduled to be in attendance but I didn’t get to interview her. With “Michelin ‘Can’t Do Anything’ to Change Lack of Female Representation, Says Director” (Eater NY Oct. 31, 2017), I really wish I had. Representing Oahu, I was lucky to meet the Director of Mixology of SKY Waikiki and Top of Waikiki, Jennifer Ackrill. You San Francisco Bay Area readers may recognize her from her time at Rye. After being convinced by her husband, Jennifer is now on Oahu living it up.
The Pennsylvania native knew a few of my colleagues. During a trip to check out the opening operations of a brewery in Waikiki that I was invited to while in Maui, my business partner suggested we go to the Top of Waikiki and see his friend, Jennifer. We enjoyed an amazing view and tasty cocktails on the deck of SKY Waikiki, then headed up for a more formal setting at the rotating bar at the Top of Waikiki. And then in Maui, the creator of these cocktails was sitting next to me.
When you first meet Jennifer, you’ll immediately feel at ease and smile because of her bubbly personality. The woman has a lot of energy, is passionate when she speaks and has a fabulous sense of humor: a quality that is a must for any bartender IMO.
In my experience, some Bar Managers just want to go back to bartending. There is a lot more responsibility with the title and the best part of the job is having fun with your fellow bartenders, slinging drinks and interacting with the customers. After several years at Rye and making the move to Hawaii, Jennifer solely bartended, needing a break from the heavy responsibility of running a bar. As a bartender, she saw inconsistencies with the bar program. The ingredients were supposed to be ‘fresh and local, and they weren’t.’ Without being ask, Jennifer created a drink menu with costing to BE fresh and local. And the rest is history.
Jennifer was providing two cocktails for the Street Food portion of the HFWF. I made my way to her table a couple of times and it was always busy. I made it, she saw me, came from around the table and gave me a great, big hug. Though less known, her other talent: good hugger. With all the craziness of the event, that was a treat. I also got to meet her husband, the reason they get to live in paradise.
Hawaii.com 2016 – Oahu’s Best New Restaurants
Tatsy Island Hawaii 2017 – SKY Waikiki Introduces New Spring Surf Cocktail Collecti
Extra TV, August 25, 2015 – Brody Jenner and Stars Galore Attend Opening of SKY Waikiki