Swiss Inn Dressing Is A Family Secret We All Get To Share
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Taisei Lee is keeping a west side family tradition alive that actually stretches back to Europe.
He, his brother, Kenji, and other family members make, bottle, and market Swiss Inn Dressing. (You can find it at Kapolei Foodland, in the R. Field salad area).
The dressing is an original — and secret — family recipe.
How They Keep The Swiss Inn Dressing Recipe Secret
The secret recipe for Coca-Cola is written down and kept in a vault. Taisei and family don’t even take that chance.
“Only four people in our family know the recipe and its all by memory,” he tells me. “There are many ‘Swiss’ dressings out there but none made in the specific sequence that we use to create our version.”
The recipe comes from their Swiss-born uncle, Martin Wyss, formerly chef of Swiss Inn restaurant in Niu Valley. The restaurant was a local favorite for 18 years. When it closed in 2000, so Martin could enjoy a much-deserved retirement, the family decided to keep a piece of the restaurant alive. Swiss Inn Dressing was born.
Okay, Okay, But What Does It Taste Like?
The flavor of Swiss Inn Dressing is hard to describe — in a good way!
It is tangy, but not spicy or sour. There’s a hint of sweetness, but it’s definitely not overly sweet like some bottled dressings.
The dressing pours nicely out of the bottle, which makes it easier to get more of it on your salad — unlike thicker dressings that can glom onto a couple of pieces of lettuce and leave the rest flavorless.
[A personal note: For a few years now I’ve made my own dressing because I don’t love the processed flavor of the ones you buy in the store. Taisei gave me a bottle of Swiss Inn to try, and I haven’t gone back to my own dressing since. I’m now on bottle 2.]
Swiss Inn Dressing: Also a Sauce, Dip, or Drizzle
I asked Taisei if you can use Swiss Inn other than as a salad dressing. Here are his recos:
- As a finishing sauce for toasted turkey sandwiches. Skip the mayo and use Swiss inn. Amazing!
- As a dip for steamed broccoli, artichokes, carrots, celery, even pizza.
- As a pasta salad sauce: toss cooked orzo with sun-dried tomatoes and wilted kale. It’s killer.
Like any sauce or dressing, you can use Swiss Inn as a marinade, but Taisei prefers a different tactic: “I use the sauce after my protein of choice is cooked. Any local whitefish seared and finished with a drizzle of Swiss Inn really pops.”
Swiss Inn Dressing: Handmade on Oʻahu, By A West Side Family
At least once a month, 4-5 family members gather at a commercial kitchen at the Pacific Gateway Culinary Incubator in Kalihi. Together, over the course of four to five hours, they make about 1,100 12 oz. bottles of Swiss Inn Dressing.
“We have an assembly line,” Taisei says. “Everyone has their core duty. Mixing, filling, capping, washing…”
Taisei was the main man behind the business from 2008-2017, but juggling those responsibilities with his career as a restaurant manager took a toll.
Happily, Kenji moved back from Japan and offered to take over operations. He also has a second career — as a documentary filmmaker and videographer for Red Ring Studio.
“He now uses his skill set to market and create visual content for the web and social media,” says Kenji. He adds: “We really want to keep this business in the family and are looking for guidance and mentorship to take it to the next level.
West Side Kids, Now West Side Businessmen
Taisei and Kenji were raised by a single mother, Faye Fujii, in Honokai Hale (the residential area just town side of Ko Olina).
“Our mom gave us a great foundation,” Taisei says. “She was a great example of hard work and unconditional love. We are the men we are today because of her.”
The brothers both attended Makakilo Elementary, Ilima Intermediate, and Campbell High — not Kapolei schools, because there weren’t any schools in Kapolei at the time. No cell phones, either, Taisei points out.
“We grew up when riding bikes, playing outside and walking to the beach was everything. Life was simple,” he says. “Now, I work at the Four Seasons and Kenji lives in Ko Olina so we are still very much a part of this growing city.”
Taisei has seen his neighborhood change, with the Marriott Beach Club and Aulani Resort coming in, but he’s still here.
I’ll give him the last word:
“Our goal is to carry on this wonderful product that provides families with happiness all over the globe. If your kids don’t like veggies, give Swiss Inn dressing a try!”