Restaurants: Helping Out

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - June 06, 2007
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I believe that the restaurant industry is the backbone of our community. When we celebrate good things in our lives, we do it with food. And when we need help with fundraising, it is to the restaurant industry we turn. And that fundraising contributes greatly to things that really matter.

This was made abundantly clear to me last Friday at the opening of Elua, the new restaurant collaboration between chefs Philippe Padovani and Donato Loperfido. The event was a fundraiser (what else?) for the Kalihi-Palama Health Center, where Keith Kiuchi, co-owner of Elua, is the president of the board of directors.

David Trask, former board president who was guest of honor at the dinner, describes the center affectionately as Kalihi Palama “poor people’s” clinic.

“This clinic to me, is a way of giving back, where nobody is a big shot and everybody contributes a part of themselves to the community,” he said. “The people who come here don’t need to know that we are helping them - it’s enough that we know we’re helping.”

Tony Guerrero, no stranger to fundraising on a huge level, credits Trask, and the center with introducing him to community affairs.

“Years ago,” he said, “canoe paddling, work and surfing were my thing. David showed me how to give back to the community. It’s a gift I am grateful to have been given.”

Trask is fond of saying that just because you’re poor, doesn’t mean you have to have poor facilities, and the center is a model of how health care can successfully reach people in ways that go beyond a simple visit to the doctor. With translators, midwives, access to low-cost medicine, insurance help and outreach programs, Kalihi Palama touches the lives of real people and makes a difference.

Padovani and Loperfido paid tribute to the theme of simplicity by serving a gloriously understated meal that was good to the last drop of Pierre Padovani’s exquisite dessert. And the warmth felt by diners last Friday had as much to do with the fine wine, attentive service and delightful food as it did with the aloha for the people behind the scenes.

As a restaurant, Elua seems to have gotten it right. Prices are not shocking and they’re aimed at anyone with a reasonable dining budget. Lunches are around $15 or so, and there are small plates to share in the evening, pupu-style dishes from each chef, and a selection of late-night items that include wonderful cheeses and some of Donato’s imported wines.

“I know that there are a lot of people in town taking bets on how long these two chefs will last together,” says Kiuchi, with a smile, ” but they haven’t been in the kitchen and watched them work.”

If the evidence of last Friday’s dinner is anything to go by, then my guess is foodies will welcome this collaboration with open arms.

And next time you’re wondering how you can help a worthy cause, just go out to dinner. The more we support our restaurants, the more, you can be sure, they’ll perpetuate the gift of giving back.

Happy eating!

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