Rethink Dinner with Hawai‘i Fresh Box

A veggie subscription box, meal plan and cooking lesson rolled into one.
Teppan Steak with Bacon Enoki, Chrysanthemum and Pear; Moroccan Fish Tagine; Organic Chicken, Whole Wheat Pasta and an Asian Peanut Sauce Loaded with fresh green veggies.
Photo: David Croxford


Let’s face it: professional chefs make better home-cooked meals than most of us. Chalk it up to the 10,000+ hours of practice.


William Chen’s CrossFit friends know this: When they signed up for a CrossFit program that required a regimented, healthy diet, they sent him photos of what they were eating, and “it looked like what you would think healthy food would look like,” Chen says. Boiled cabbage kind of stuff. When they saw photos of what Chen cooked, they said, “We will pay you to make our food.”


Hence, Fresh Box. Chen, then the chef de cuisine at Beachhouse at the Moana, quit his job to focus on this new concept, which rolls elements of a vegetable subscription box, meal plan and cooking lesson into one.


In a recent Fresh Box, kale was destined for a Caesar salad topped with hemp seed-crusted ahi; purple sweet potato, turkey and five different veggies came together in a rejigged shepherd’s pie. And lastly, a meal of steak and potatoes, spruced up with dill and green beans.


Don’t expect a packaged, prepared meal plan. (“Reheated food never turns out the way it would if it were made fresh,” Chen says.) Instead, Fresh Box offers all the ingredients you need for three meals, everything from sashimi-grade ‘ahi down to the spices, like paprika, plus recipe cards with step-by-step photos. Everything’s measured and ready to go. All you need is cooking oil, salt and pepper. 


Chen is not a health nut (the Donburi Chen at Koko Head Cafe, the one with pork belly, fried pork skin and more pork? That’s named after Chen), but these recipes have a healthy bent. Which, to me, is the perfect combination—an equal-opportunity, curious eater (he’ll stop in every hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant he sees) who knows how to handle his veggies.


Fresh Box may not be the right fit for busy families looking for fast meals—meals are made for two and require prep work; they’re better suited to beginner and intermediate-level cooks who want to get better at cooking from scratch. Which is not to say they’re time-consuming: The shepherd’s pie took me 45 minutes from start to finish, including cleanup, and the ‘ahi and kale salad only 20 minutes. Plus, there’s all the time saved from shopping and mealtime decision-making. But one of my favorite aspects of Fresh Box is the way it teaches creative pairings and techniques for healthier (and tastier!) eating, like the hemp-seed-crusted ‘ahi and sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk. So you may never get as good as a pro chef, but you can at least start thinking like one., $72 (intro price) for three meals for two. Boxes are shipped to your door in an insulated box with frozen packs to keep everything cold.


Read more stories by Martha Cheng