Who’s Cooking for Maui—and How You Can Help

More than 15,000 fresh, hot meals are going out to Maui survivors every day. Here’s a closer look.


When Hawai‘i woke up to horrifying scenes last Wednesday, chefs mobilized. Food trucks drove to West Maui to cook free meals. Hotel restaurants, after accounting for their staffs, started cooking their inventories to feed displaced Maui families and first responders. As shelters filled, eateries from Pā‘ia to Kahului to Kihei abandoned business as usual to feed the survivors of Lahaina. And from O‘ahu and the Mainland, massive aid came.


Our rough count shows that well over 15,000 freshly prepared hot meals have been crossing the island daily. This doesn’t take into account restaurants that have simply thrown open their doors to the hungry. Many are working in concert—World Central Kitchen with Chef Hui from O‘ahu and Common Ground Collective of Haiku, Maui; Salvation Army Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Red Cross, Mercy Chefs—as well as with individual restaurants, chefs and volunteers, some of whom lost their own homes.


All the ways people are taking care of each other, the bigness of the shock and grief and heart behind these gestures, are part of what makes us Hawai‘i. From individuals dropping off bags of rice to others mobilizing thousands of meals, here’s a partial picture of who’s cooking for Maui today. Some we were able to contact let us know what they need. Click on their websites or Instagrams if you’re able to help.


SEE ALSO: These Maui Restaurants Are Asking for Help for Their Workers


Chef Hui


chef hui volunteers pc @chefhuihi

Image from @chefhuihi on Instagram, Aug. 14


From O‘ahu, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi and Amanda Corby Noguchi reached out to Maui chefs when the Lahaina fires broke out last Tuesday. They’ve since set up in the kitchens at Maui Community College, where volunteers include some of the island’s best known culinary talents: Sheldon Simeon (Tin Roof and Tiffany’s Maui), Lee Anne Wong (Papa‘aina, lost in the blaze), Kyle Kawakami (Maui Fresh Streatery) and Isaac Bancaco (Pacific‘o, also destroyed).


“Chef Hui is making 10k meals a day and providing to World Central Kitchen for distribution mainly on the westside and all the Salvation Army shelters. None of this would be possible without MCC and their amazing culinary team,” Corby Noguchi texts. “We are working towards phase 2 where we decentralize from MCC and spread meal prep out to a few other partner hubs now that roads are more open and there is more of a system in place. Chef Hui will support Maui for as long as they need. Even when emergency efforts stop, we will still do our best to feed displaced residents in need.”


Chef Hui’s horizon is long-term, and the group is accepting donations and volunteer signups for the future on its website. chefhui.com, @chefhuihi



Mercy Chefs


Mercy Chefs lahaina Food Distribution Pc Mercy Chefs

Photo: Courtesy of Mercy Chefs


The Virginia-based nonprofit has been working with local churches, volunteers and Plantation House, whose Instagram says meals (3,000 on Wednesday) are being distributed twice a day at four locations in the Lahaina area. Mercy Chefs reached out to us with this update on Aug. 17:


“Mercy Chefs has surpassed the 25.000 meal mark, with the team serving hot, chef-prepared meals. Exact daily count varies based on need, but it has been thousands each day. Meal preparation is taking place at The Plantation House with plating and distribution at Citizen Church Maui. Additional meal prep and distribution is taking place at King’s Cathedral,” writes Andrew Knight, the charity’s public relations representative.


“The meals are prepared with local, fresh ingredients, incorporating cherished traditional recipes. A recent instance showcases their resourcefulness—they transformed a generous 600 lb protein donation from local restaurant Merriman’s into a nourishing seafood stew with swordfish and clams over rice, which was served to those in need just days ago. Other recent recipes have featured:

  • Kalua pig, spinach salad, mac & cheese, slider roll and a banana
  • Roasted pork loin with pan gravy, mac salad, roasted beans, lemon-blueberry-pineapple cake and a biscuit
  • Tangerine chicken and broccoli, sticky rice, kim chee, microgreen slaw with fresh watermelon.”


Mercy Chefs is asking for monetary donations and local volunteers to help deliver and serve meals. mercychefs.com, @mercychefs



Havens Maui


Havens Maui Disaster Relief Menu Havens Ogg

Image from @havens_ogg on Instagram


Zach Sato spent last Tuesday worrying about the Kihei wildfire—Havens Maui, his saimin and smash burger stand, is in Kihei. Then Sato, who grew up surfing all summer in Lahaina, woke up Wednesday and “felt like a big piece of me got torn out.” That morning, he answered Chef Hui’s call to make 300 sandwiches.


He’s kept the eatery and Havens’ food truck open every day since while simultaneously mobilizing staff and volunteers to source, prep and cook 500 meals a day to be distributed by World Central Kitchen. Sato was a chef at Merriman’s restaurants and the Hotel Wailea. His version of feeding Maui means red chile posole, roast chicken congee with a salad of pohole fern shoots and marinated onions and tomatoes as well as venison meatball pasta.


From day one, Sato chose to run his operation solo, apart from his chef friends working with Chef Hui at the MCC kitchens, because he feels he can have more impact this way. He set up a GoFundMe with a $250,000 ask and is more than halfway there. The goal: to keep feeding 500 a day, plus first responders still fighting fires, as Maui’s needs continue even after disaster relief agencies leave.


“I want to do this long-term. People will be in their homes and condos and hotel rooms and trying to figure things out. They’re gonna need help,” Sato says. “We want to build a database long-term where we can have three or four pickup points on the west side so people can pick up their meals. We’d like to expand past 500 if that’s the need, but that’s what we’re going for now. It’s such a moving target. Every day’s a challenge for sure.”


Here’s his GoFundMe. havensmaui.com, @havens_ogg


SEE ALSO: Maui gets a new saimin and smash burger spot


Merriman’s Kapalua

The day of the fires, Merriman’s pleaded on social media for employees to check in—were they safe or did they need help? (All were OK, though some had lost their homes.) The next day, the high-end restaurant started delivering hot meals around West Maui. It’s continued ever since, working with the Salvation Army to reach Lahaina and is feeding anyone who can make it to the restaurant. Daily volume has quadrupled to 2,400 meals on Wednesday.


Now, the local restaurant group is using its 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Merriman’s Culinary Scholarship Fund, to raise funds to keep cooking for Maui. Normally, the fund helps pay culinary school tuition for needy students. For the next six months, donations here will help Merriman’s Kapalua provide meals for Lahaina fire survivors.


Merriman’s tells us they have enough volunteers for now but need help getting the word out to West Maui: “Please make sure folks know that the meals are free and if they can drive, the restaurant has WiFi as well as hot meals available to them.”


merrimansandmonkeypodrelief.com, merrimanshawaii.com, @merrimansmaui



Pauwela Beverage

This maker of locally sourced, organic kombucha tea and kefir water in Haiku-Pauwela has been cooking 100 meals at its commercial kitchen every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The meals are delivered to shelters and emergency workers.


What kind of help do they need? “Volunteers for sure, as we hope to do this for a long time. We have a volunteer signup. If people reach out to us, we can send it to them. We also have a GoFundMe going for ingredient and kitchen costs, would be great to keep building that.”


pauwelabeverage.com, @pauwelabeverage



Tight Tacos


Tight Tacos Maui Pc Tight Tacos Maui

Instagram image from @tighttacosmaui


The Kahului taco shop has had a standing offer since the day of the Lahaina fires. “So far, we’ve been getting displaced families coming in, and we’ve been going to the shelters cooking onsite. We would love if you could spread the word about first responders,” they message.


Anything else they could use? “We’ve gotten offers from vendors for meats, fish, rice and beans. We’re also going to start working with Raiz for tortillas. Chef Hui has also been of great support.


“Supplies would be amazing! Takeout ware, utensils, etc. We’re also promoting our ‘Help Maui’ meals on our online store. Each meal purchased helps us cover the costs for these meals. Hoping to do this for months to come or however long the community finds it helpful 🙏🏽”


tighttacosmaui.com, @tighttacosmaui


SEE ALSO: Tight Tacos Brings Luscious Carnitas and Foodie Cred to the Top of Wai‘alae Avenue


Pastele House

The Wailuku-based food truck has been delivering hot meals and supplies to West Maui when it can. It’s closed for regular business except Mondays. Last Saturday, having collected donated supplies and sorted, labeled and packaged them, the crew drove to Napili and distributed everything along with 750 hot meals (a number it says was matched by Kahului’s Restaurant Matsu).


Pastele House’s Instagram post described the day: “We spent the day cooking and feeding. We took breaks under the giant shaded trees and talked story with residents. We laughed together and we cried together. I got some of the best hugs of my life on Saturday. There was great sadness but there was also so much joy…”


We asked if Pastele House was still providing free meals. “Hi,” came the reply. “Yes we are.”


“Do you need anything?” we asked. They’re probably too busy to respond. Check their Instagram for updates.