Hilton Chef Understands Hunger

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - March 09, 2011
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Jeffrey Vigilla

Jeffrey Vigilla is executive chef for one of the most prestigious and largest food gigs in town - Hilton Hawaiian Village. As such, he feeds an awful lot of people every single day. But he wants to do more, and he’s in a perfect position to do it.

So Vigilla has joined an elite roster of chefs, restaurants and vendors participating in the comeback of a newish - but already much-loved - charity foodie event. Great Chefs Fight Hunger is a fundraiser for the Hawaii Foodbank, and it is one of the best of its kind in Honolulu.

What sets Vigilla apart is the fact that he, perhaps more than most, can personally relate to Hawaii Foodbank’s mission. As a poor kid growing up in Hilo, Vigilla knew the sting of going without.

“I received food as a kid,” he says. “In our house, it was the surplus cheese and the butter. At Thanksgiving we were one of the families that got the boxes ... It was very tough - six kids, and we really had to stretch food, and we knew how to stretch it, but we were grateful.”

So when the sponsor of the Great Chefs event, financial services giant Sun Life, asked Vigilla to sign on, he jumped at the opportunity. And Vigilla says his staff at the Hilton - and indeed the entire resort - is on board, not only with this particular event, but with the food bank’s annual food drive as well.

The force behind the event, the man most responsible for putting it together, is another chef and local businessman, D.K. Kodama, who has assembled a lineup of friends and colleagues who run some of the best and most popular food and drink establishments in the state.

And he says without exception they are eager to help out.

“Everyone’s enthused,” says Kodama, “because they want to give back. They really do.”

The Hawaii Foodbank had a huge success with Great Chefs when it was first introduced in 2007. But Kodama says they had to take a hiatus last year because of the weak economy. He couldn’t, he says, ask some of the businesses - especially the owner/chefs of smaller restaurants - to do something that might put them at risk.

“It’s hard to hit somebody up when times are not that great. We want Great Chefs to be a success. Now the economy is rebounding so it’s a great time to bring it back.”

And this is a project they’re all very, very good at.

“We do food,” he says. “And that’s one good way to give back, give food to help the less fortunate.”

Vigilla is grateful he can lend his resort’s considerable resources to the effort. He’s done research, knows the need, and even went to the Hawaii Foodbank warehouse to see the operation firsthand. He came away impressed with the emphasis on quality.

“The space ... what they do there - a lot of people don’t know that they qualify every single thing. It’s amazing.”

It’s fitting that some of the greatest champions for the hungry in Hawaii are the people who make it their life’s work to feed people. The chefs will work their culinary magic Saturday, March 26, at the most appropriate venue in town - the Hawaii Foodbank warehouse. You can stroll around the warehouse while eating fine food and enjoying wines, ales and martinis. Kapono will be there for your entertainment. The best thing is you can fill yourself up knowing you’re doing something very good for Hawaii.

Call 836-3600 ext. 244, or visit hawaiifoodbank.org. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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