A long-time supporter of locally sourced products, Kuhio Grille boasts participating for 20 consecutive years at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range—ever since the event began in 1996. That same year, Sam and Nelline Araki established Kuhio Grille at its original location in Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.
Remembering Taste Through the Years
Nelline says event participation has been a family affair since the beginning, as daughters Erin, Lauren and Shannon helped dish out food to hungry attendees at the then Kahilu Town Hall. Kuhio Grille served “guava ribs.”
Lauren recalls “walking around to try all the yummy foods.” She adds, “One year, I tried the rocky mountain oysters. It was made like a chicken salad. It wasn’t until my second serving that I realized what it was.”
Family Has Roots in Local Agriculture
Kuhio Grille uses pasture-raised local beef as the restaurant wants to support local food producers, details Lauren. “I think the term is Buy Local,” she notes.
Because of their family background, the Arakis know the importance of using local, fresh products. Sam’s grandfather Genji Araki and his father, Tetsuo, farmed taro in Waipi‘o Valley.
Sam’s mother, Sueno, made huge laulaus from the taro leaves and they were so good, everyone had to have them. Using “Grandma’s” recipe, Kuhio Grille opened as the “Home of the 1 Lb. Laulau” to much acclaim. Wrapped and steamed in the restaurant’s kitchen, the beef, pork or chicken laulau are featured in Kuhio’s Kanak Atak plate—a one-pound laulau with kalua pig, lomi salmon, pickled onions, poi, rice and haupia.
Local Products Used for Menu Items
Kuhio Grille uses local, pasture-raised beef for its burgers, stews and chili. The meat is featured in the restaurant’s signature Fried Rice Loco —a mound of freshly made-to-order fried rice; a juicy, home-style beef burger patty; and an egg topped with Kuhio’s own brown gravy.
In addition to sourcing local taro leaf and beef, the Grille also uses local tofu, watercress, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, ti leaf, pumpkin and fish.
The Arakis are still contemplating what to make for this year’s Taste—they have been assigned ground beef. “We’ve narrowed it down to two recipes,” Lauren shares. “They are both so good; it’s difficult to decide.”
Who Was Cooking at the Original Taste
While Kuhio Grille has the distinction of being the only 20-year, consecutive culinary participant,Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill
has been involved for 19 years.
A list of the 1996 culinary participants follows, along with their assigned meat cuts. Mahalo to all the culinary participants, who through the years, have supported our local ranchers, farmers and food producers and have celebrated local, pasture-raised beef at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range!
- Bree Garden Restaurant/Chef Bernd Bree: beef tongue and chuck
- Cafe Pesto/Chef Kevin Nutt: beef chuck
- Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel/Chef Corey Waite, lamb shoulder
- Hilton Waikoloa Village/Chef Wilhelm Pirngruber: beef round
- Huggo’s /Chef Peter Bartch: beef ribeye
- Kalai’s Kama‘aina Kitchen/Chef Kalei Bajo: beef misc.
- Kona Village Resort/Chef Glenn Alos: beef round
- Kuhio Grille/Owner Sam Araki: beef ribs
- Maha’s Cafe/Chef Maha Kraan: buffalo ribeye
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel/Chef Goran Streng: beef and buffalo loin
- Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows/Chef Phil Sassaman: beef loin
- Mean Cuisine/Chef Ann Sutherland: lamb leg
- Nori’s Saimin/Owner Beth An Nishijima: beef chuck and shank
- Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill/Chef Jackie Lau: buffalo filet
- Sam Choy’s Restaurant/Chef Sam Choy, Dutch O’Neal: beef chuck and shortribs
- The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i/Chef David Reardon: buffalo round, chuck