James Watts Joins KonaNai’a as Executive Chef at Hawaii’s Premier Private Club

Kohanaiki, a private club on the Kona Coast of the island of Hawai`i renowned for its culinary excellence, has welcomed acclaimed chef James Watts as Executive Chef. In this role, Watts is responsible for the culinary direction of the club’s dining venues, including its signature Kōnane Chop House and the scenic waterfront Beach Restaurant, and a robust calendar of wine dinners, cooking classes and food and wine events.

James Watts Joins KonaNai’a as Executive Chef

Watts brings over two decades of experience working in celebrated kitchens in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia and has led culinary teams at renowned venues, including the three-Michelin-starred French Laundry in Napa Valley, Hana Maui Resort, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort and Sal Salis Resort on Ningaloo Reef in Australia, among others. He made his cooking debut at the award-winning Swag Country Inn in Waynesville, N.C.


“We’re extremely honored to have James as Executive Chef of Kohanaiki,” said David Reese, President and Chief Executive Officer. “His culinary experience, world travels, innate creativity, and dedication to hospitality make him the ideal fit for Kohanaiki and our culture of providing exceptional experiences to our members.”


Watts will introduce innovative new culinary events and explorations in collaboration with Kohanaiki’s Master Sommelier Andy Myers, offering private dinners with sublime pairings from the club’s extensive cellar. These intimate dining experiences will offer a global perspective and showcase the bounty of Hawaii’s artisanal ingredients, prepared with unique flavors, techniques and ingredients from all over the world.

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To create farm-to-table dishes for members, Watts will source from Kohanaiki’s two-acre biodynamic farm, which supplies mango, dragon fruit, lilikoi, ginger, lemongrass, herbs and more to the club’s kitchens. Watts will also make ample use of the club’s close relationships with the island’s local farmers, ranchers and producers. Kohanaiki’s ideal location near Kona’s famed Ono Lane, hailed as one of the best fishing spots in the world, will enable Watts and the culinary team to showcase the freshest local fish as the centerpiece for incredible ocean-to-table dishes.


To learn more about Kohanaiki, its dining and club amenities, or its real estate offerings, visit Kohanaiki.com.