About Troy Guard
“Only get what we need” is a phrase Chef Troy Guard often heard at a young age from his parents, uncles, aunties and kupuna whether they were fishing, harvesting fruit and vegetables or picking ʻophi. Born and raised seven generations in Hawaiʻi, it’s a code that’s been passed down to him which he continues to live and apply in everything he does.
Now, a successful chef and restaurateur, Guard is the founder and owner of TAG Restaurant Group comprising of 13 restaurants throughout the domestic U.S. representing eight concepts from a bubbly breakfast joint HashTAG, quick-casual Bubu, Guard and Grace steakhouses and everything in between. While the concepts vary wildly, evidence of Guard's Hawaiʻi roots are creatively woven into the menus in each of his restaurants, an exciting premonition to his eventual return home to the Hawaiian Islands.
This fall, Guard will be opening his dream restaurant in Wailea. His homecoming to the Hawaiian Islands is more than just returning to his birthplace. It’s also where he honed the skills that have led him to the career achievements and personal happiness he lives today.
Guard declares Roy Yamaguchi, one of the founders of Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine, as his mentor. As he often shares when he talks story, “Without having any experience, Roy took a chance on me. He believed in me more than I did and helped me grow.” Guard started as a dishwasher at the age of 14, working every single position from kitchen porter, commis chef, and line cook to eventually a sous chef at Kahana Bar and Grill on Maui. Under Yamaguchi’s tutelage and confidence, Guard traveled to Asia, opening multiple outposts over a span of eight years in Hong Kong and Tokyo before landing in New York.
While Guard can undoubtedly rely on his culinary pedigree, current success and recent accolades including being named one of the “Great Regional Chefs of America” by the James Beard Foundation, and “Best Chefs America” by the peer-reviewed organization of the same name, his definition of success goes beyond the awards.
Growing up in Hawaiʻi, Guard knows the importance of giving back. He is already extending this practice as he returns to Hawaiʻi before the opening of his restaurant. Guard is cultivating a relationship with Kipahula ʻOhana and hopes to be a benefactor for the organizationʻs initiatives including the Malama I Ke Kai programʻs two projects. These are the 'Opihi Rest Area which are “no-take” voluntary zones along the shoreline adjacent to Haleakala National Park to give ʻopihi a chance to repopulate, and the proposal to designate Kipahulu Moku as a Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area. Guard has also recently volunteered to support Maui County Farm Bureauʻs “Agriculture in the Classroom” program. He will be the guest chef at the 2020 Ag in the Classroom event at Haleakala Ranch this spring, teaching more than 1,000 kids for two days about the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables.
Returning home to the Hawaiian Islands is a dream come true for Guard, now sweeter than ever with his wife and business partner Nikki, and their three kids. During the cultural blessing for the start of the build-out of the restaurant, the place was filled with Guard’s parents, aunties, uncles, cousins and childhood friends eager to welcome him back home.