A Big Fish and a Sharp Knife: The Journey of Edmar Piano

The first time Edmar Piano realized being a professional cook might be a way to escape the street life he had fallen into, was after a run-in with the LAPD gang unit.

by: Kevin Stanton

photography by: Chris Tran

“I was in high school. I was still going fishing but at the same time I was gang-banging. And I got caught up,” he said. “As soon as I got out of juvenile hall, they stuck me in that program and I was making tortillas and salsa and cooking breads with some hardcore gang members. They were teaching me how to do that stuff and I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty good at this’.”

“That program” is Homeboy Industries. Based out of downtown Los Angeles, its goal is to rehabilitate gang members by teaching them job skills like cooking. It was the first step on a path that led Edmar to the Culinary Institute of America, then high-end restaurant kitchens in Australia, New Orleans and eventually to Nantucket.

Edmar in the walk-in at 167 Raw, with a cut of tuna.

These days, he fancies himself an assassin for hire. Although, to be honest, most of time he is simply helping people. It is an ethos he inherited from growing up in Hawaii, the idea of being “aloha.”

“If you need it and I got the time, you can have my time,” he said. “Honestly, I do a lot of it for free. It was part of growing up for me. In Hawaii, being ‘aloha’ is about sharing all the time.”

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