Growing old over the decades: alone, with loved ones, with the friends who outlast the loved ones.
This job will always be a part of me, even as I leave it. It wasn’t work. It was living.
From Hunan Cuisine to Duke’s Waikiki to Chef Mavro, what five restaurants feed their staff.
First, it was the pop-up with the memorable name: The Pig and the Lady—the pig being the chef, Andrew Le, and the lady his mother, Loan Le (pronounced “Lay”). Then, it spun off into a wildly popular farmers market stand selling Vietnamese sandwiches and noodles far beyond the usual banh mi and pho. Last year, it materialized in bricks and mortar on King Street in Chinatown, and the crowds followed. The Pig and the Lady quickly started getting press in national publications, and in November, The New York Times came calling. Most of the attention is focused on the Pig, and sometimes the Lady gets a mention. But The Pig and the Lady should really have been called The Pig and the Family.
“That is more confidential than anything else,” says Olive Tree Café’s Savas Mojarrad when I ask him his age. “People think I am about 60. Nobody knows my age. I have a friend—Maurice Grasso (former owner of La Gelateria)—for his 80th birthday, he had a big celebration. I said, ‘Stupid Italian, you don’t announce your age when you’re that old. What kind of chance do you have to meet a woman after this?’”
It took five years for Café Kaila owner Chrissie Kaila Castillo to let go of control. Sort of.
“It’s gotten a lot better,” she says. “I think I’ve been able to take a little step back and not do everything myself. I can let somebody else cut the potatoes today. It’s OK if they’re not all square. I let someone else do the shopping, but [say] ‘You have to make sure you dig through the piles and get only the good bacon.’ I was really anal. Super bad.”
We came down the mountain from Cloud Rest, a region of Ka‘u where the clouds hang low and a soft rain falls every afternoon. Miguel Meza of Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee had invited me over for a cup of coffee on the lānai. The first thing I noticed was the scale—a tool of the trade for any serious barista, but Meza’s was snow-white and a dead ringer for an Apple TV. It connected wirelessly to his iPhone, and, as he poured water through the coffee grinds, it displayed and measured—in real time—the volume and rate of water poured. With the app, he could also track the coffee grind size, the water temperature and the brew time, and share it with the online community of coffee aficionados.
I had entered the full-coffee-geek zone.