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 Napua. She 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. They learned the art of self-sufficiency and practiced learning 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.
Chef Keoni Regidor found himself captivated by the art of cooking early on in his life, and soon began his chef's journey by attending culinary school. Soon after graduation, 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 food to their guests that was shipped from the same place the guests just came from? Why not prepare the most delectable, local and natural fish and farm produce, the freshest fruits from trees and grass-fed beef from Big Island pastures?
Owner Brandon Lee
At one time, in generations past, Hawai‘i Island adapted to being 100% sustainable while supporting over 1 million people. 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 Hawai`i’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 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!
As if starting a restaurant was not enough for Napua-owner Brandon Lee, Lee also founded Kaunamano Farm. Kaunamano Farm is dedicated to raising organic Berkshire pigs more sustainably than almost every other farm in an ultimate effort to create the optimal pig for Hawaiian cooking. As a result, in addition to sourcing high-quality, locally grown food from almost every other farm on the island, Lee himself provides the restaurant with the most well-raised and sustainably-grown pork one could ever ask for.
How It Works
To create a healthy environment for the pigs, Lee uses an open pasture system and rotational grazing. After the pigs graze in a field, chickens roam the grounds, eating up all of the fleas and maggots that have developed in the dirt to create a clean pasture. There’s no stench, and the pigs are completely free of pests. After this, goats are brought in to clear the weeds, leaving a pasture that is like-new and ready for the pigs to return to.
Lee grows multiple grasses, clover, and perennial peanuts, which keeps the pigs well-nourished and very 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, which means their meat is rich and marbled, and the flavor is extraordinarily clean.
Check out the Kaunamano Farms specialty items on the menu to taste healthy, top-quality pork like you've never tasted before!