Issue 18.1: February/March 2015
Native Intelligence: O`ahu

Honolulu Chew

Story by Tiffany Hill. Photos by Ann Cecil.

“This is Brutus and this is Pauline,” says a smiling Liz Anderson. Liz and her husband, Peter, “adopted” Brutus and Pauline from France. They’re not children; they’re large, steel-cutting and candy-wrapping machines, which are critical to their confectionery, the Hawaiian Nougat Company.

In Europe, where Brutus and Pauline were constructed, nougat—made with honey, whipped egg whites and roasted nuts—is beloved, and it’s not at all like the airy stuff common in mass-produced candy bars. “Americans aren’t familiar with nougat,” says Liz. So in 2008 the husband-and-wife team opened a commercial kitchen to introduce Hawai‘i to the sticky sweetness of true nougat. It’s a small operation in the East Honolulu neighborhood of Kaimukī; Peter handles distribution while Liz, with occasional help from her 14-year-old hānai (adopted) granddaughter, Brittney Ganzelli, handmakes the nougat in small batches. “Brittney is the only person besides myself who knows how to make our nougat,” says Liz. “It’s just like in France: Children work in kitchens at a young age.”

Liz knows this because she learned to make nougat at École de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris after tiring of her first career in investment services. (It’s also why she correctly pronounces the French invention “noo-gah.” The word is from the Occitan language of southern Europe.) She went on to work as a pastry chef in Serve, France, and in Berkeley and Marina Del Rey, California, before the Andersons moved to Hawai‘i. Liz returned to school, this time becoming a special-education teacher. “She’s a Renaissance woman,” says Peter.

But the kitchen called her back. As of today, she laughs, her final career is as a nougatière. Her recipe is a spin on the classic French one, using locally sourced ingredients: Maui cane sugar and vanilla beans, Hawai‘i Island macadamia nuts and O‘ahu eggs. She’s also done limited-release batches featuring pineapple and Kona orange zest. “It’s Hawaiian nougat,” she says. “We want to support the local economy and local farmers.”

In addition to purchasing the Andersons’ nougat at the Kaimukī kitchen, you can buy it direct through their web site or locally at Whole Foods, Foodland, Red Pineapple, the Moana Surfrider and Four Seasons Hualālai gift shops.

Story by Tiffany Hill. Photos by Ann Cecil