Cooking with Intent | Go Hawaii

Cooking with Intent

下に
スクロール

Mark Noguchi

Pili Group Executive Chef
Having recited a chant, asking permission to gather leaves to hand craft a lei that he will offer as a gift, Mark Noguchi stands at the threshold of Halau O Kekuhi, the hula halau
(school) he used to belong to. He hasn’t set foot inside once since he left. He thinks back on all he’s been through in the intervening years.

He went to culinary school and then the East Coast to perfect his cooking, and returned to Oahu to become one of the most celebrated local chefs. But something was missing. He found himself drawn not to running restaurants, but to the way food makes connections. To heritage. To certain places, cultures and times. To other people. And he deeply yearned to be of service.

Now he runs a catering group and works with teachers to develop food- and culture-based curriculums. As he visits farms and fishponds across Oahu, he’s not just seeking ingredients for a meal. He’s building bridges of understanding to help communities become stronger and more resilient.

His old friend opens the door and welcomes him back to the halau. Mark realizes with a smile that he didn’t leave hula behind. He carries it with him always as a professional, in the kitchen, in the classroom, following his calling to educate and inspire.

What’s the ideal patron, for you?

The ideal patron to me is one that will trust us. Make themselves vulnerable to have a dialogue that will allow us to take them somewhere. Which is why it's really important that our staff understand where our ingredients come from. As chefs we can be real selfish, because you can get on a phone and be like, “Hey, yeah, this is Mark with the Pili Group. Can I get five pounds of carrots? I need the best green beans that you can, blah blah blah. And I need it for tomorrow, k? Thanks, bye.” Without any inkling or understanding of where it came from.

But then you come to this farm on the west side of Oahu, MAO Organic Farms, the largest organic farm in Hawaii at just shy of 50 acres. They take the Waianae youth, in one of the most impoverished areas in Hawaii, and they cultivate them into leaders by providing them with a tuition stipend for college as well as a lot of good guidance from a lot of good mentors. Our staff are required to go out there to meet and to get to know the MAO crew.

And they learn that MAO doesn’t just grow food. They grow leaders. You have these young motivated kanaka (Hawaiians) changing the world, because people visit from all over the world to this farm and are blown away by what they're trying to accomplish. And you see how hard these kids are working. They've been working since before the freaking sun came up. And then you begin to realize how much work it takes to make food. It inspires us to be better people when we leave.

"I think you can taste intent, the way that you put in good energy."

How does that impact your food?

I think you can taste intent, the way that you put in good energy. Our co-producers have the best intent in the food that they're producing, in the ingredients that they're producing. So when it comes to us, it is our kuleana to also treat it with the greatest respect possible. We see and we've felt how much energy it takes. When you go to restaurants where they cook with intent, the space has that feel. Guests can see. They can read about where they want to go before they eat it. They can see what the food looks like. And people appreciate a story of understanding, how we understand where food comes from. This is Hawaii. This is what we're about.

Fortunately there is this resurgence of cultural awareness, and so places like the fishpond, Paepae o Heeia, are being restored by the people from Hawaii. The Hawaiians built that pond, almost 800 years ago, that far back. There are fishponds all over Hawaii and as we moved into modern times the methods and cultural practices of how we source became diluted and started to disappear.

In the past 10 years this grassroots effort has restored the fishpond, stone by stone. And chefs have noticed, and other community leaders have noticed, and the Hawaii community as a whole has noticed. People are proud that they're from Kaneohe and they've seen the fishpond come back, they look at it now and it's clean and it's open. The wall’s fixed.

Or out in Waianae, the community is proud of MAO. You know the majority of the community may not eat MAO veggies every day. They are still proud of it, right? It strengthens the community by being successful. But it’s also a very tangible example of the possibility of “what if?”

We're an island. So if we can be successful sustainably, if we can prove that it’s possible here, imagine what's possible out there over the ocean, on a continent that has so many more resources than we do. We can do it here. We can make do with what we get. So why can't you?

Is there such a thing as traveling with intent?

You’ve gotta go with intent. What are you gonna leave behind? And, I'm not talking about your Snickers wrapper. What are you gonna leave behind as a mahalo (thank you)? What are you gonna leave behind as an acknowledgement that you came, you left ... you know, you gave something of yourself? Because I guarantee you, when you come to Hawaii, you're gonna leave a better person. That's how we are. But, you cannot just come and take.

I have met a lot of visitors, that's just my industry, that leave saying, "Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Even just leaving, going, "thank you," that's huge. If everybody thanked each other all at one time, oh, the world would explode!

More Stories

Kauai

Leinaala Jardin

A teacher dedicates her life to take on the duty of bringing hula—the life of Hawaiian culture—from prohibited to celebrated.

More

Kauai

Brandon Baptiste

A chef gives up culinary fame to come home, and reinvents a humble plantation-era dessert with world-class technique and local ingredients.

More

Maui

Isaac Bancaco

A spearfisherman and chef exemplifies taking only what you need, defending the ocean’s bounty and representing local farmers and fishermen in his cuisine.

More

Maui

Dustin Tester

A trailblazing big-wave surfer empowers women to overcome the gnarliest challenges through surf therapy, just like she did.

More

Molokai

Greg Solatorio

A cultural practitioner sacrifices everything to carry on his ancestors’ way of life, even as the modern world encroaches.

More

Lanai

Anela Evans

A cultural practitioner bridges both worlds so that luxury and ease can coexist with the grit and authenticity that shaped her native land.

More

Hawaii

Cliff Kapono

A young Hawaiian leaves home to further his education and returns with the ability to use chemistry as a platform to share ancestral wisdom with the modern world.

More

Oahu

Kyle Reutner

An ex-bartender works with Hawaiian researchers and local farmers to return glory to noble cane with craft and mixology, redefining the Mai Tai as a worthy cocktail.

More

Oahu

Keone Nunes

A Native Hawaiian tattooist bestows ancient, hand-tapped kakau upon worthy recipients willing to endure a rite of passage.

More

Browse Hawaii Adventures

Please note: We apologize for any inconvenience, but our preferred business listings below are in English only.
Filter Results
showing 1 - 10 of 267
Captain Cook Dinner Cruise
Hawaii
Body Glove Cruises
75-5629 Kuakini Hwy Suite D
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Our daily Deluxe Snorkel & Dolphin Watch guarantees dolphin sightings or come again FREE! Captain Cook Sunset Dinner Cruise to Kealakekua Bay and a Seasonal Whale Watch! Beautiful 65' luxury catamaran with plenty of shade, cushioned seating, a premium cash bar, and is 100% wheel chair accessible.

Websites
Hawaiian Paddle Sports Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Maui
Hawaiian Paddle Sports
Summary

Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers authentic, sustainable eco-tours that empower guests to discover a deeper appreciation of and connection to Hawaii’s marine environment. Guests can choose from private kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe surfing, whale watch, and snorkel tours, or take SUP or surf lessons.

Websites
Manta Feeding
Hawaii
Kona Honu Divers
74-5583 Luhia Street
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Cruise the reefs in style on Kona's largest custom dive charter. Dance with mantas. Dive or snorkel with Kona's amazing marine life. Experience the mystery and magic of black water. Receive $10 off by booking online at konahonudivers.com. Use promo code gohawaii.

Websites
Submerging
Oahu
Atlantis Submarines
Beachfront Ticket Office
Hilton Hawaiian Village 2005 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels.

Websites
Hawaii Forest & Trail Oahu
Oahu
Hawaii Forest & Trail
Summary

Let Hawaii Forest & Trail show you an authentic Oahu, utilizing our unparalleled land access and interpretive guiding approach to provoke authentic place-based experiences that illuminate the island’s unique regions through in-depth interactions with our nature and culture. Our Hawaii Oahu tours offer a different perspective.

Websites

Pages