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Dell Valdez – Jiujitsu Black Belt and Executive Chef

Dell Valdez
Corp. Executive Chef / C.O.O. of Maisen US Inc.
Jiujitsu Black Belt c/o Mano Jiujitsu under
Prof. Rod Amano and Jun Hoody


Dell is a Honolulu-based Filipino-rooted jiujitsu Black Belt that owns several restaurant establishments in Honolulu under the Umbrella of Maisen US Inc. Visitors of Honolulu I'm sure are familiar with some of these establishments as they've been quite the rave both by locals and by tourists, Vein at Kakaako, Dell's Kitchen and Bakery, and Mio Pastalogy. From the ultimate gourmet experience to your "grab and go" meal Dell has tapped into a unique space in different tiers, all of which present a uniqueness that reflects Dell's eclectic taste not only in food but experiences. During our recent visit to Honolulu, we met up with Dell and had the opportunity to let him really dig into his background both as a chef as well as a jiujitsu practitioner.






Jiujitsu has always had a special place in my heart but I never could really convince myself to begin training earlier in my life... I had (and still have) a demanding career in the culinary arts and that was my main focus. For those who may not know the culinary arts is one helluva business and the hours are pretty heavy. There wasn’t a right time for me to pursue my love for jits while I was pursuing my career. But once I had some stability in my life and job I “finally” went thru and started my path in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. That was almost 11 years ago..never stopped and never looked back. I started training to not only satisfy my love and curiosity of the art but to also help me focus on my daily duties and also help alleviate the stress that happens in the kitchen.



Man! The journey?!! I can honestly say jiujitsu has to be the single most important choice/decision I have ever made. You hear the saying “jiujitsu saved my life” not to sound corny but it certainly did with mine. Before training, I was overweight, “drank” almost every night, smoked almost a pack and a half of stogies a day, and dabbled in other “vices” that comes with the high pace of life in the kitchen. Jiujitsu saved me from all of that. The last cigarette I had, I had a couple hours before my first intro class..not the wisest of choice. But f*ck!! Here I am... still goin'... still in LOVE!! The journey as most know is not an easy one... trust me! Being a Chef and finding the time to go and “train” is not an easy task. But there’s something about being better than you were that keeps me happens, and the new job often would get me stuck working mad hours. It happens. The few days that I would get off of work I trained extra hard. This was my mindset, 'cause I didn’t know when was the next day I could train. There were months even when I never touched the mat. But I never fell out of love with the art. I constantly “sparred” with my teammates in my head. Visualized techniques and broke them down while conducting service in the restaurant. Almost every conversation was about "jits" or convincing my cooks to start their “journey/path” lol.. all of this has accumulated in me achieving my black belt.



There's a cross-pollination between the two ecosystems, even when it comes to the business aspect of it all. It’s simply applying the same technique but on a different platform or area. Jiujitsu helps slow things down and puts a lot of what I do into perspective. The art has made me more relaxed in tense/stressful situations in my restaurants/kitchens. I’m more at ease when those times arise and often find myself analytically calculating better decisions and smarter choices. When crafting “specials” for the evening's service I find myself taking different views on how to arrange the different items on a plate, taking the time to properly develop flavors (as one would properly take the time to “sink” in the choke) and finally putting them all together and sending that dish out knowing that you gave that dish your all. It's all relative to rolling on the mat. Recently (since the pandemic) I’ve taken up fishing as a hobby. Something about being on or near the water when fishing feels like being on the mats. To me, jiujitsu and fishing have very similar characteristics. Patience, focus, and timing. You need to know when to strike at the right moment. If you’re too eager and don’t set the hook at the right time the fish is gone. Similar to jiujitsu. If you don’t take the time to apply the submission well then you lose the opportunity for victory. There's an allure and exciting angst that comes from the unknown. Not knowing if you'll catch big or land a submission. That anxiety crawls up my spine when I second guess myself, for instance... Do I have the appropriate gear to go fishing the whole day? Is my cardio and conditioning up to par to help me last more than a couple rounds? I tell you, both are so similar, even though they're two different worlds..