Known for his simple modern American cuisine, Executive Chef Peter Lai creates the seasonally changing menus for all-day dining at Oak Grill and the Bites menu at Aqua Lounge, both at Island Hotel Newport Beach. Responsible for all culinary operations, Lai works in tandem with the restaurants’ general manager, Kevin Morales.
Lai is a proponent of sustainable trends such as root-to-stalk vegetable cooking. He is devoted to purveying the finest Southern California products, handling them with respect to prepare simple delicious dishes at Oak Grill such as the Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with creamy orzo risotto, asparagus, fennel, arugula and lemon dill dressing and a Grilled Pork Chop with bacon, baby potatoes, peas and apricot brandy sauce. At Aqua Lounge, his innovative Bites menu features, for example, a shareable Burrata Fundido with marinated tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and a crispy baguette and a Tempura Shrimp Po’ Boy with housemade Creole slaw, Sriracha Remoulade and cilantro on a French Roll.
Lai got his start at an early age in his family’s traditional Chinese restaurant. His career path includes working for Hyatt Hotels in New Mexico, Texas and California. Most recently, he was chef de cuisine at Watertable, a signature restaurant in Huntington Beach, Calif. He graduated summa cum laude from Texas Culinary Academy.