By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
Starting this Wednesday, travelers visiting the American Airlines LAX Flagship Lounge will be in for a real treat: cuisine created by Chef Brandon Kida, executive chef of Hinoki & the Bird in Century City.
The Flagship Lounge has been closed during the pandemic. But as things slowly go back to normal, American Airlines has teamed up with the James Beard Foundation to highlight local chefs. A chef was selected for each of the five American Airlines Flagship Lounges in the U.S.: New York JFK, Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“We wanted to represent the flavor of that city, its farms and purveyors and bring that experience, and that quality and attention to detail to the Flagship Lounge,” said Victoria Jordan of the James Beard Foundation.
Raphael Girardoni, American Airlines manager director of premium guest services, said visitors to the Flagship Lounge can expect exquisite service, strictly adherance to CDC guidelines, and a glass of champagne.
“As we welcome guests back, we are doing everything we can to create an amazing experience, ” Girardoni said.
In Los Angeles, Kida is showcasing his unique style, including a tostada bar that combines Asian flavors such as furikake, Kewpie mayonnaise, pickled wasabi stems and creamy avocado, with a crispy tostada. He will also be serving broiled miso salmon with fennel, and his take on the Arnold Palmer, a Nikka coffee whiskey with yuzu and matcha that he calls the Mr. Miyagi.
These combinations are a natural for Kida, who grew up Koreatown, the son of an Issei father and Yonsei mom.
Speaking to The Rafu, he explained that his dad would serve traditional Japanese breakfast, while his mom prepared dishes like enchiladas.
He has been leading the culinary team at Hinoki & the Bird since 2016. He graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and has worked at some top restaurants, including L’Orangerie in L.A. and the legendary Lutèce in New York.
During the pandemic, he said his initial thought was that he could finally relax a little with the sudden closure, but that eventually his thoughts turned to taking care of his staff. He launched Go Go Gyoza, a gyoza delivery service, that helped raise funds for charity and also helped support his workers. The business became so big that he had to change his email.
That creativity and passion are evident in Kida’s menu for the American Airlines Flagship Lounge.
“An old chef once said to me of this culinary profession, it chooses you. You don’t choose it,” Kida said.
A Single Visit Pass can also be purchased for $150 if you don’t have a qualifying ticket and want to have the luxury experience. More information can be found at: www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/clubs/flagship-lounge.jsp
Rafu Shimpo photos by ERIC HAYASHI