Born on the coast of the United Kingdom in Devon, Anthony Rush got his start working in various kitchens in the country including the two Michelin starred Le Champignon Sauvage as a sous chef.
At 22 he left the United Kingdom for the United States, taking a position on the line at Thomas Kellar’s The French Laundry in Yountville California where he worked for a year and a half before moving back to the U.K. to work at The Fat Duck for a year.
In September 2005 Rush returned to the U.S. to work at Kellar’s New York Michelin starred restaurant Per Se where he first met fellow line cook Chris Kajioka, who he would later partner with, and front of the house team member Katherine Nomura, who he would later partner within both life and business.
After three years at Per Se, Rush returned to the United Kingdom to work at The Fat Duck once again before moving to London in April of 2013 to be the culinary director at Hogsalt & the Soho House.
About a year later Rush joined Simon Rogan’s Fear at Claridge’s as the kitchen’s head chef, learning and working under the restaurants executive chef Dan Cox for just under two years.
A few years prior Rush and Nomura visited the island of Oahu in Hawaii and ultimately decided to move to the island permanently in 2015 where they linked up with Kajioka and together decided to open a restaurant of their own, Senia.
Originally their restaurant was scheduled to open in the spring of 2016 but was ultimately delayed due to construction timelines and permitting. With the delays the trio decided to hold pop up dinners in New York City and San Francisco to help stir up interest. Eventually what they were doing caught the eye of the New York Times, which lead to a story about the restaurant being published in August 2016, four months before Senia’s actual opening.
Finally in December 2016, Rush, Kajioka, and Nomura opened one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year in Honolulu history, Senia. Named after the Greek word “xenia”, whose meaning combines the idea of guest friendship with the Greek ideology of hospitality, and complete with a logo that is a cross section of a pineapple created by Nomura’s sister, chef’s Rush and Kajioka took on the all the responsibilities of the kitchen and restaurant while Nomura took on the GM duties, which allowed them to create a casual approachable guest dining experience.
By using cooking techniques from the U.S mainland and Europe that they pair with local ingredients, Rush and Kajioka honor Hawaii’s food cultures and traditions throughout their 1,900 square foot brick lined building that was originally built in the late 1800’s by serving an a la carte menu as well as an eight course tasting menu in the 50 seat exposed brick main dining room, 12 seat neutral brown and blue aesthetic private dining area, and 8 seat chef’s counter carved out of monkeypod by Dae Son of Wood Hawaii that also features a 4 seat booth just behind and to the left.
While Senia was equipped to be a restaurant that could provide in-depth gastronomic journey to guests, both Rush and Kajioka envisioned it being a neighborhood restaurant with a menu changing with what ingredients are available, what are in season, and what they felt like cooking within the moment rather than strictly a tasting menu formatted restaurant as the coursed out dinner would probably struggle to find a consistent client base.
Rush and Kajioka brought Pat Collins from California to be the kitchen’s sous chef, Mimi Mendoza from one Michelin starred Chez TJ in Mountainview to be the pastry chef, and master sommelier Chuck Furuya protégé Chris Ramelb, who was awarded the Johnston medal by the Sommelier Foundation for being the top overall scorer in the nation for the 2017 advanced sommelier exam, to be the wine director.
The trio completed Senia’s aesthetic by purchasing handmade wood cabinets from Hawaii professor Nick Hunsinger, acquiring decanters and a glass chandelier dining room centerpiece made by local glass artisan Jonathan Swanz, and installing a hand cranked pasta machine to keep with the traditional methods of making and forming dough.
With progression from concept to debut tracked by national publications as far back as eighteen months prior to opening, Rush and Kajioka conceptualized everything around the idea of not pushing boundaries or testing people but simply trying to delight them with things the kitchen team likes to eat because that’s what makes them happy and is also the reason people go out to eat, to get something you can’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t make at home.
A year later Senia was name to Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2017 List and awarded the bronze medal for best tasting menu and named a finalist for the best O’ahu restaurant category at the 35th annual Hale ‘Aina Awards.
On June 8th 2019 at the 36th annual Hale ‘Aina Awards, Senia took home gold for the best tasting menu and silver for the best O’ahu restaurant category.
In February 2020, both Rush and Kajioka were nominated for the best chef Pacific James Beard Award. Three months later both were named as finalists for the award which was later canceled due to voting agenda issues within the foundation.
Closed for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rush pivoted Senia to a takeaway menu for over a year until reopening for dine in service on April 22nd, 2021.
In the fall of 2020 at the Hale ‘Aina Awards, Senia took home the gold award in the best tasting menu category and was named a finalist for the best O’ahu restaurant category.
A month later it was officially announced Kajioka was no longer affiliated with Senia or the recently announced Bar Podmore which was set to open sometime in the summer of 2021 due to the legal process of the separation of the partnership had begun in January. Kajioka had been focusing on other projects as far back as early 2020 like opening Miro Kaimuki in June 2020, Papa Kurts in November 2020, and Waicoco at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa in February 2021 so leaving Senia made the most sense for all parties involved and was mutually agreed upon.
Having pushed the culinary scene in Honolulu to new heights since opening Senia, chef Anthony Rush continues to look to make things that haven’t been done before in order to treat locals and visitors alike to one of the most memorable dining experiences that can be found across the Hawaiian Islands.