Issue 7.5: October/November 2004

The People's Kitchen

by Paul Devlin Wood
photo by Richard A. Cooke III

Chef and consultant
Cameron Hiro in
Lanikeha Kitchen.

Molokai goes its own way. It clings to its rural, robust and rooted identity and resists the all-out tourism flourishing across the channel on Maui. Fine. But people still need ways to make money. And that’s where the new Lanikeha Commercial Kitchen comes in.

Located within Molokai’s community center in Ho‘olehua, the new kitchen is designed to be an incubator for bootstrap businesses that stick close to the land. Top-grade stainless-steel gadgets line the walls: Hobart mixers, Wolf ovens, Vulcan ranges, a sixty-gallon steam kettle, reefers, freezers, you name it.... One glance would put a lump in the throat of any gourmet chef. Of course, it’s all certified by the Department of Health, and it’s available to basically anybody for fees as low as $7.50 an hour. Better yet, the kitchen comes with a manager, Cameron Hiro, who is a professional chef and delivers the how-to information. Want to convert aunty’s favorite dressing into a made-on-Molokai supermarket hit? Cameron can help adapt the recipe, design a production system and even find a way of getting it to market. He helped a mother of seven start Moki’s Munchies, a business making puto, a Filipino steamed muffin made with sweet potato, banana and other bounty of the ‘aina—a business that would have been virtually impossible to get launched without Lanikeha Commercial Kitchen.

On any given day, Chong’s Poi Shop is in to use the big steamer. L&R Farms, the largest grower of Molokai’s distinctive purple sweet potatoes, is experimenting with the fryers to create a new sweet potato chip. Other users are more modest in their entrepreneurial vision: They are church groups doing a fundraiser, neighbors creating a food booth, or families who just need the elbow room and prep tables to get ready for a big luau. Created by a complex partnership of state agencies, foundations and corporations, Lanikeha Kitchen represents something rare—economic development that doesn’t tear up the grass roots.

Lanikeha Commercial Kitchen
(808) 553-3244, ext. 27