Named one of 13 Rising Star Chefs over 20 years ago, Hawai‘i Chef Alan Wong soon became a supernova, helping to birth Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine (HRC) with other chefs determined to work with local farmers, fishermen and ranchers. HRC put Hawai‘i on the foodie map, establishing the state as a soughtafter destination where diners can experience a unique blend of ethnic-inspired cuisines made with fresh, local products, which he offers at his multiple-awardwinning restaurants.
In addition to contributing to his profession, Chef Wong believes in giving back to the community. Generations Magazine® asked him about his growing legacy of giving.
GM: When did your involvement at the Mōili‘ili Senior Center begin?
Chef Wong: Almost 20 years ago, I read an article about how our aging seniors on fixed incomes are facing rising expenses. Some didn’t know how they were going to cope…
One of the people being interviewed for the article was a woman from our area who attended the Mōili‘ili Senior Center. We inquired and found out that some live alone and don’t go out to eat much, let alone with others. I thought that since this is in our neighborhood, we should support the center in taking care of our elders.
It started with me cooking a pot of stew and pan of rice. A few others would make a salad and our pastry chef made dessert. We would pack it all in our cars and drive down the road once a month, and then out of their small kitchen, dish out food for the 30 or so seniors.
A couple of years later, I thought we should have them come eat in our restaurant and make it more special. More of our staff got involved and with a full range of kitchen equipment behind us, we started to cook a wider variety of dishes for them.
GM: What prompted you to provide this great meal to the seniors at Mōili‘ili?
Chef Wong: I believe in taking care of our elders. One sure thing is that we all will get there one day, too. I also believe that it is healthy for the seniors to be with kids and younger people and vice versa. Our next generation also needs to see how we take care of our elders and parents, hoping that one day, they, too, will care for them equally as good — if not better. We allow our staff to bring their kids and families, and sit down with them, enjoy eating with them and sharing the moment.
GM: What do you get out of this event?
Chef Wong: We believe in giving back to our community. Why not take care of our very own right in our backyard with the things we do every day? Our staff feels really good about the event. At the end of the meal, they usually share something they did with the seniors at the center — music, dancing, exercising — all very entertaining and so cute to see.
Hospitality is about making people feel special. At my restaurants, the aloha spirit is about giving a gift to someone, making someone’s day and expecting nothing in return — except a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.