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@Work: Ono's

Dec. 29, 2008 — Sean McGee likes to talk. He just doesn't like to talk about himself.
Ask him a question about himself and you're likely to get a joke in reply, a wry observation or a self-deprecating remark. He's got stories to tell, he just doesn't like putting himself in the spotlight.
But one thing he likes to do even more than talk is cook, and if you press him, really press him, he will say without a hint of false modesty what dinner at Ono's has already hinted at — that he's the best chef on St. Croix.
Sean McGee has been cooking most of his life, professionally for more than 30 years. He has owned or been head chef in restaurants from Hawaii to Europe, from Newport, R.I., to Fiji. He was head chef at the Getty Museum and Paramount Pictures. He's cooked in Africa, and he's cooked in Australia.
He's cooked as a relief chef in most of the restaurants on St. Croix, as well.
"I know what works and what doesn't," he says simply.
Now he's cooking in his own place again, a casually elegant — one might say "island elegant" — space above Turtles Deli in Frederiksted, overlooking the harbor. Open Tuesday through Saturday evening, the restaurant offers a full bar and extensive wine list, a view of some of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet, soft Caribbean breezes and an eclectic menu that changes nightly.
Ono's is very much a creature of McGee's personality. He writes a new menu each day. Literally — he decides each day what the restaurant will offer that evening, in part to take advantage of what's fresh or interesting or available from suppliers, but also, McGee freely admits, based on what he happens to feel like cooking on any given night.
And his philosophy is summed up in the restaurant's name. Ono is a Hawaiian word that means "No. 1, the best," he says.
"I serve the finest seafood and steaks on the island, I serve only the best produce," he says.
And if his claims seem big, his goals are modest.
"I'm not here to make a lot of money," he says. He wants to run a great restaurant and let locals find him. "I couldn't care less if the tourists show up."
He opened Ono's, he says, because "I couldn't live on my retirement."
The economic downturn had put a big dent in the stock holdings he was planning to live on. He was faced with the choice of moving back to the mainland to cook for someone else, or staying where he wanted to be and opening his own place. And since his wife "wouldn't move," Ono's was born.
He's confident in his kitchen skills; he isn't trying to displace anyone else in the St. Croix restaurant scene. Every restaurant has its own niche, he says, one serving a menu with a Southwest flavor, another focusing more on local cuisine. At Ono's, the emphasis in on Hawaiian variations.
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Dec. 29, 2008 -- Sean McGee likes to talk. He just doesn't like to talk about himself.
Ask him a question about himself and you're likely to get a joke in reply, a wry observation or a self-deprecating remark. He's got stories to tell, he just doesn't like putting himself in the spotlight.
But one thing he likes to do even more than talk is cook, and if you press him, really press him, he will say without a hint of false modesty what dinner at Ono's has already hinted at -- that he's the best chef on St. Croix.
Sean McGee has been cooking most of his life, professionally for more than 30 years. He has owned or been head chef in restaurants from Hawaii to Europe, from Newport, R.I., to Fiji. He was head chef at the Getty Museum and Paramount Pictures. He's cooked in Africa, and he's cooked in Australia.
He's cooked as a relief chef in most of the restaurants on St. Croix, as well.
"I know what works and what doesn't," he says simply.
Now he's cooking in his own place again, a casually elegant -- one might say "island elegant" -- space above Turtles Deli in Frederiksted, overlooking the harbor. Open Tuesday through Saturday evening, the restaurant offers a full bar and extensive wine list, a view of some of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet, soft Caribbean breezes and an eclectic menu that changes nightly.
Ono's is very much a creature of McGee's personality. He writes a new menu each day. Literally -- he decides each day what the restaurant will offer that evening, in part to take advantage of what's fresh or interesting or available from suppliers, but also, McGee freely admits, based on what he happens to feel like cooking on any given night.
And his philosophy is summed up in the restaurant's name. Ono is a Hawaiian word that means "No. 1, the best," he says.
"I serve the finest seafood and steaks on the island, I serve only the best produce," he says.
And if his claims seem big, his goals are modest.
"I'm not here to make a lot of money," he says. He wants to run a great restaurant and let locals find him. "I couldn't care less if the tourists show up."
He opened Ono's, he says, because "I couldn't live on my retirement."
The economic downturn had put a big dent in the stock holdings he was planning to live on. He was faced with the choice of moving back to the mainland to cook for someone else, or staying where he wanted to be and opening his own place. And since his wife "wouldn't move," Ono's was born.
He's confident in his kitchen skills; he isn't trying to displace anyone else in the St. Croix restaurant scene. Every restaurant has its own niche, he says, one serving a menu with a Southwest flavor, another focusing more on local cuisine. At Ono's, the emphasis in on Hawaiian variations.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.