Course Correction 3: Making waves

This is Part 3 of a series about how I found my way back into the kitchen after a near career-ending injury. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

kitchen417While having lunch at the Highway Inn bar with chef Mike Kealoha, he receives a text. “You’re nominated for a Hale Aina award,” he says. I look up from my bowl of beef stew with a raised brow, and he clarified that Highway Inn was nominated for Best Hawaiian Food, which was no surprise, and Best Desserts.

I checked the Hale Aina site on my phone and sure enough, Highway Inn was listed under the Best Desserts category with JJ’s Bistro (last year’s winner), Alan Wong’s, MW Restaurant and Stage Restaurant.

HaleAina-logoWhen I embarked on my journey back to the kitchen, the thought of awards never crossed my mind. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that more than a year has passed since I made the choice to have a career rather than a job. Despite the hard work, long hours and sacrifices required to open a restaurant, I enjoyed the ride, and it was an experience that I would not trade in for anything.

My Japanese upbringing tells me I need to be humble and not seek acknowledgement. Yet, the recognition the nomination represents validates the hard work of the previous year and puts to rest the self doubt and limiting beliefs I had while opening Highway Inn Kaka‘ako. Yes, I was ready, and I had the ability to do the job.

In the past, I would shy away from the limelight. Despite the high-profile photography gigs I had between 2009-2013, there are very few photos of me from this period. Any photos of myself with the political candidates I worked for came about because they insisted I get in the photos.

ourkakaakoI faced my aversion for being in front of the camera just prior to the Hale Aina announcement when Our Kaka‘ako contacted me about their Meet Our Makers video series.

I had done interviews to promote the restaurant before, however, the video shoot for Our Kaka‘ako was a completely different experience. An entire film crew had come to Highway Inn. I had been on the view finder end of many shoots like this before, however, this time, I found myself staring down the opposite end of a camera lens.

The four-hour shoot had a lot of moving parts — head shots, a cooking demo, re-shoots of different aspects of the cooking demo, shooting b-roll of the restaurant, recording of kitchen sounds. Essentially, we shot a cooking show that day.

kitchen249The end result, which eloquently condenses part one and two of my Course Correction blog posts into a 97-second video, is now up for the world to see. There’s even a infographic with one of my recipes.

Watching the video is a very surreal experience. Despite having lived it, it’s hard to believe this is my life. It’s so true what Our Kaka‘ako writes on my Makers video page, “Sometimes second chances are even sweeter.”

Here’s a link to the video

HIFF preview: ‘The Fishing Club’

Photo by Ed MoritaRainy and muggy weather nor questions of will or won’t hurricane Ana hit Oahu didn’t stop the cast and crew of the “The Fishing Club” from gathering Friday night at Kaka‘ako Agora for a preview screening of the film that they worked so hard on.

The short film featuring Robert Kekaula and Keali‘i Reichel in his acting debut will make its world premiere at the upcoming Hawaii International Film Festival, which runs Oct. 30 through Nov. 9 on Oahu and Nov. 13-16 on the Big Island and Kauai.

our-trailer-for-summer-20134-550x500In the film, Kekaula and Reichel lead a band of friends to stop the development of a new resort. As the plan unfolds and the news media move in, the group of friends feel the pressure.

The film does a good job of not offering a slanted, anti-development view with characters questioning if the potential jobs that the development will create would benefit the community while being respectful of Hawaii’s cultural heritage.

Reichel came across at first stiff and hesitant in his first acting role, but it actually played well with the unsure nature of his character, who serves as the spiritual glue of the group of friends. By fighting his inner turmoil of respecting his ancestors, while living in a modern world, we get a glimpse at the depth of emotion that he incorporates so well in his music.

“The Fishing Club” will be screened during HIFF as part of the Made in Hawaii showcase at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 2 at 1:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. with Neighbor Island screenings in the works. Buy tickets.

HIFF: China Night Gala

Photo by Ed MoritaThe Hawaii International Film Festival on Saturday launched its fall showcase with its annual China Night Gala. Held at Ward Village Courtyard at the IBM Building, proceeds from the event benefited the newly formed HIFF Foundation.

Headed by former HIFF executive director, Chuck Bowler, the HIFF Foundation supports emerging talent, cultural exchange through the cinema arts through an exchange program between students at the Academy for Creative Media at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and film students at the University of Shanghai.

In attendance at Saturday’s gala: Chinese actor Huang Xiao Ming; Ai Fei, finalist of Chinese Idol 2013; and Chinese mega-star Yue Sai Kan.

Here’s a look at HIFF’s China Night gala.

2014 China Night

Picture 1 of 73

Photo by Ed Morita

Party pics: SurvivALOHA Paina

Highway Inn in Kaka‘ako played host to a unique launch party for Brother Noland Conjugation’s new book, “The Hawaiian Survival Handbook.”

Featuring food gathered by Conjugation and prepared by the Highway Inn staff, guest were also treated to live performances by Raiatea Helm, John Cruz and Henry Kapono.

Here’s a look at Brother Noland’s SurvivALOHA Pa‘ina:

SurvivALOHA Paina

Picture 1 of 33

Assorted poke for the guests. Photo by Ed Morita


Brother Noland performing

Brother Noland’s ‘Survival Handbook’

handbook“How to survive a shark attack” and “how to find water” are just a few of the entries included in “The Hawaiian Survival Handbook.” The new book by local musician Brother Noland Conjugation is a compilation of general survival knowledge he learned throughout his life hunting and foraging from the land and sea.

The book isn’t really intended to be a survival guide, however. “Chances are you won’t ever have to escape a charging wild boar, or make a fire without matches, or fight off a tiger shark,” Conjugation writes. “…it can be a real adventure just reading about such survival skills from the comfort of your beach chair.”

HSHMediaDay_24Reading through the the handbook and looking at the illustrations by Andrew J. Catanzariti invokes memories of camping on Moloka‘i as a youth where an old fisherman named “Cappy” took me under his wing and taught me how to live off of the land.

Going through the book, I recalled Cappy’s lessons on how to lay a net. We set it up 10 yards offshore from where I set up my tent on the beach. I was instructed to check the net every day at low tide. Whatever was in the net was mine to eat, and I ate well. Every day I would pull out fish and 7-11 crabs. The only exception was to put any slipper lobsters into a small fishpond nearby. Later Cappy showed me how to use those lobsters as live bate for fishing for ulua.

I particularly enjoyed Conjugation’s entries on how to field dress wild game like chickens, turkeys, deer, and wild pigs, which made want to hunt down some wild game just to practice.

My most vivid memories of Moloka‘i were triggered by Conjugation’s entry on how to hunt a wild pig. I recalled a day when I was 12 years old. I was at my camp site when I pointed to a passing truck and said, “Cappy, look, they caught a pig!” Cappy looked at the passing truck, which had a dead pig tied to the hood and several hunting dogs in the back. “Nah, that’s not how you catch a pig,” he responded.

The next day, I found myself hiking in the forest with Cappy. We arrived at a certain spot that Cappy identified as a fresh trail. He knew there was a pig in the area, so he took out a loaf of bread and fifth bottle of rum from his pack. He emptied the rum into the loaf of bread and mashed it up in a bag. He then dumped the liquor-soaked bread on the ground and instructed me to climb up a nearby tree. We waited in the tree for an hour until a pig came out of the woods. It sniffed the bread before devouring all of it. Within minutes, the pig tipped over and was a asleep. We climbed down from the tree and Cappy said to me, “That is how you catch a pig.”

Conjugation’s book is a quick and entertaining read and whether your are the outdoors type or not, some of the tips like “how to treat a blister” or “how to treat an insect bite” may prove useful in everyday life. As for the rest, Conjugation puts it best. “What are the odds you’ll ever have to find water underground or field dress a turkey? Not too high, to be sure. But of course, you never know!”

Brother Noland will be hosting a launch party for his book at Highway Inn in Kaka‘ako on Tuesday Sept. 23, from 5:30-9 p.m., with special guests Henry Kapono, John Cruz, Raiatea Helm and others. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased online. Here’s more information about the event.