The Pili Group - Honolulu, HI
“I cook from an `āina-based perspective. It’s important for us to know where our food comes from. It’s an intimate connection that not only keeps me grounded – it defines who we are.”
Born and raised in Mānoa Valley, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi spent his early 20s dancing with Hālau o Kekuhi in Hilo, an experience that inured in him a profound sense of respect for the land and its resources. A graduate of Kapi`olani Community College and the Culinary Institute of America who refers to himself as “just a cook,” Mark’s jovial humility and dedication to community empowerment through food and education have put him at the forefront of Hawai‘i’s food community.
An alum of TOWN Restaurant and Chef MAVRO in Hawai`i, he is the former co-owner & chef of He`eia Kea Pier, General Store & Deli, a revitalized Windward O‘ahu institution where his hyperlocal sourcing of product – within a traditional Hawaiian land division known as an ahupua`a – garnered international attention.
With his wife Amanda Corby Noguchi, Chef Gooch then went on to form Pili Group, a non-traditional food concept focused on the connection between community, education and food. In 2013, Pili partnered with Hawaiian Airlines on LunchBox, a café serving healthy, locally sourced meals to Hawaiian Airlines staff. And Gooch is currently a featured chef on Hawaiian Airlines’ First Class menu.
From 2012-2014, Gooch was a founding partner and resident chef of TASTE TABLE, a pop-up project that jumpstarted the vibrant gastronomy scene in Kaka`ako. In January 2015, he expanded his brand in Kaka`ako with a lunch eatery, MISSION Social Hall & Cafe, on the grounds of the historic Hawaiian Mission Houses museum. Although small, this café reconfirmed Pili’s commitment to sourcing locally and telling the story of ingredients to create a deeper connection to the meals they served. “Gooch” can also be seen on the Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats as a commentator and on CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’s Hawai‘i special.
Noguchi’s most recent endeavor is serving as a Food & Sustainability Curriculum Specialist at Punahou School, linking students and faculty to experts outside of education, who offer sustainable food and living projects. The innovative approach connects students to food and the scientific knowledge and cultural wisdom from which it springs, enlivening the curriculum and engaging students in a way never before seen at one of the world’s finest private schools. In recognition of the way he interweaves food, place, community and kuleana (or responsibility) to better Hawai‘i, Gooch was named an Omidyar Fellow in 2019.
Like the intention that infuses his cooking, Gooch’s personal motivations are rooted not in chefdom but in heritage. He counts family – his two daughters and his beloved wife – as his greatest accomplishment.