As one relaxes and takes in the breathtaking landscape of Makaiwa Bay, overcome with the delicious and exotic flavors of locally-sourced food and the pleasant hum of live Hawaiian music in the background, it is only natural to ponder the beginnings of the hidden gem that is Napua Restaurant.
The establishment has its roots tucked deep into Hawaiian history and culture, with its name and mission stemming from a gentle and gracious woman bearing the name that would later come to represent not only an admirable lady, but a place where Aloha and respect for the Islands is shared with all of those who choose to embrace it.
Napua was born on the Hamakua Coast, and it was there that she and her husband raised their family while continuing the tradition of instilling integral Hawaiian values in their children. It was here that her children learned the art of self-sufficiency and practiced leraning how to swim, surf, fish, hunt, and farm with family and friends. And when the `ohana got together, there was never any shortage of music, storytelling, laughter, blessings and amazing food on the table.
One of her children took an exceptional interest in the food part.
Chef Keoni Regidor found himself captivated by the art of cooking early on in his life, and decided to begin his journey as a chef attending culinary school first in Hilo and then in Honolulu at Kapi`olani Community College. Soon after, Keoni had opportunities to train and cook alongside island-reknowned chef Peter Merriman, with whom Keoni assisted in the opening of Merriman's Market Café in the Kings' Shops in Waikoloa.
Keoni’s first job in the industry was peeling shrimp at Bubba Gump’s, along with lifetime friend and brother-in-law Brandon Lee. Years later, after Brandon came home to raise his family following a successful stint in sales for Mercedes-Benz, the two friends decided to open restaurants together.
Chef Keoni Regidor
Their reason was simple. And it goes back to their roots. Why do most restaurants serve their guests food that comes from where they come from? Why not prepare the luscious, freshest fish and farm produce, the just-picked fruits from trees in the region, and beef from cows raised on Big Island grass?
At one time, in generations past, Hawai‘i Island adapted to being 100% sustainable. In a unique and efficient system defined by land divisions called ahapua‘a, folks who lived in the mountains traded hardwoods and other products with folks who lived near the ocean and had aquaculture in place. Farmers in fresh water regions grew taro and vegetables to trade with fishermen and salt-makers, and so on. This balanced and sustainable society produced excess, and the population was able to take time off every year—for the feasting, games and celebration of the Makahiki.
Today, Hawai‘i imports 90% of its food. In spite of a rising “eat local” movement, most of Hawaii’s visitors are eating food from where they come from, instead of food from here on the Island. Brandon and Keoni have worked hard to try and source everything Napua needs from within the Honoka’a to Mauna Lani area. In other words, what they see along their drive to work.
We think you’ll taste the difference. Enjoy ~ bon appétit ~ itadakimasu ~ aloha!
Big Island native and owner of Napua Restaurant, Brandon Lee is raising organic Berkshire pigs sustainably, and his goal is to create the optimal pig for Hawaiian cooking.To create a healthy environment, Lee uses an open pasture system and rotational grazing.
After the pigs graze in a field, chickens run through and eat all the fleas and maggots that have developed in the dirt, creating a clean pasture: There’s no stench, and the pigs are free of pests.
Goats are the next animals up in the rotation; they come through to eat the weeds. Lee grows multiple grasses, clover, and perennial peanuts. This variety keeps the pigs nourished and excited to eat.
The pigs spend so much time roaming from pasture to pasture that it changes their body composition. Instead of a having a huge gut, their fat is more incorporated into their muscles. That means their meat is rich and marbled, and the flavor is clean.