Editor’s Page: The Right Reasons

A pig farmer, a chef and Hawaii executives talk about work.

The cover of our magazine this month shows Koko Head Café chef Lee Anne Wong holding a piglet from Shinsato Farm, the Kahaluu piggery that supplies most of the pork she serves at her popular brunch spot.

Wong is a lively veteran of national TV food productions. She agreed to pose with the pig for our special chef issue because she works with Shinsato Farm year-round. “We want to support local farmers, local culture, really promote sustainability here at the restaurant, so we source most of our pork from Glenn and Amy,” she says.

While some might wince at a piglet in the arms of a chef known for serving bacon and other signature pork dishes, I think the link from local farmer to chef should be emphasized for all the right reasons.

“You have to know where your food comes from,” Wong says. She knows the Shinsato farm because she’s visited there: “The pigs lead a happy, happy life and they’re humanely slaughtered.” And that’s harder to find today in an industry dominated by large corporations. “It’s not a factory-farmed animal. It’s not shoved in a pen with hundreds of other animals,” Wong says. “We know the diet it’s being raised on and we know the people who are raising these animals.”

Pig farmer Glenn Shinsato said he didn’t mind carting two piglets to Kaimuki for a photo op because he appreciates the support of local chefs:  “Lee Anne and the restaurant industry have been very good to us.”

After 30 years in the business, Shinsato says, he enjoys working with the animals, being outdoors and handling the variety of tasks that make up each day on the farm.  With the help of Shinsato and other local farmers, Wong says she’s able to serve 60 percent locally grown/produced food in the restaurant, an impressive figure in a state that imports at least an estimated 85 percent of its food.

The farmer and the chef’s candid appreciation of each other reminded me of a recent leadership conference sponsored by our sister magazine Hawaii Business that included our big boss, Duane Kurisu, chairman and founder of aio group, which oversees our magazines in its portfolio of locally owned businesses.

Kurisu, who often shies away from the spotlight, kept his message simple: “Speak from your heart, you can’t go wrong. Remember where you came from, how it makes you comfortable wherever you are.”

Allan Ikawa, CEO and founder of Big Island Candies, stressed the importance of communicating honestly with your workers. He recalled when his company received a large make-or-break order that could only be filled if all the employees worked nearly around the clock. After explaining what was at stake, Ikawa says the employees worked long and hard to make the order happen and sustain the company. His advice: “Earn respect by communicating,” and “do everything from your heart; do it the right way.” If needed, Ikawa added that he’d only sell his company to one person: his longtime friend Kurisu, because he trusts him: “He would do the right thing.”

Though they travel different paths, the common theme among these successful people is that they are passionate about their work and doing the right thing for the right reasons.

In this issue, we go behind the scenes to learn about a variety of passions. In the restaurant guide, led by our food and dining editor Martha Cheng, we check in with Wong and some of the state’s other top chefs: Learn what they eat, what’s in their fridges at home and more. We look at the challenges and hurdles faced by Hawaii Pacific University in “HPU at a Crossroads” by senior writer Loren Moreno. Senior editor David Thompson helps us lift the curtain on 100 years of community drama at Diamond Head Theatre; and we go behind the scenes of an independent Hawaii film production of the popular teen book Under the Blood Red Sun.

We hope you’ll enjoy these journeys.

Exclusive video from our cover shoot: We talk behind the scenes with chef Lee Anne Wong. bit.ly/hnchefwong