PO‘IPU — The employees’ cafeteria at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Po‘ipu was closed Tuesday.
“We close the cafeteria and move everything up here,” said Joseph Taitano, the human resources director at the resort.
“We have good food, good entertainment, and enjoy a longer lunch hour.”
Taitano said the Mahalo Day event that closed the cafeteria and relocated everything to the resort’s Grand Ballroom starting from 10 a.m. and running until 8 p.m. is one of the ways the resort managers try to acknowledge the efforts and commitment demonstrated by their employees.
“We’re a busy place, and they can get lost in the grind,” he said.
“And, we don’t want to forget them. We’re proud to be the largest private employer on this island. Finally, we want to thank our employees for their commitment.”
Taitano heads up the department that concerns itself with matters pertaining to the 923 employees who are currently on staff at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.
“That’s the last number I heard,” Peggy Lake said. “And, we have eight more that will start orientation Thursday.”
Taitano added that he hopes to add another 15 to 20 employees by the end of the month, and still has positions open.
Stella Burgess, the resort’s Hawaiian culture coordinator as well as trainer with the human resources department, said the Mahalo Day takes place several times a year, usually once a quarter.
“During the summer, we have a summer picnic, and then the Hawaiiana Festival, and at the end of the year it’s the employee awards banquet,” Burgess explained.
However, Tuesday’s program was operated under the Hyatt corporate structure’s “Celebrate Our Employees” program, where the Po‘ipu resort sistered with fellow associates at a Grand Hyatt property in Australia.
Doug Sears, the Po‘ipu resort’s general manager, explained that, while Australian music and culture was being learned in Po‘ipu, over in Melbourne, employees there were being treated to Hawaiian food, music and culture, as part of this program.
“Next year, we sister with another resort from a different part of the world,” he told the employees as he began his task of drawing the hourly lucky numbers after leading the almost-full ballroom in a round of “Aloha!”
The lucky-number drawings were only part of what the employees received when they arrived for the luncheon set against a background of Australian and other international music.
Burgess pointed out that the menu itself was an international offering including such ethnic specialties as Portuguese bean soup, Korean chicken, meat pies from Australia, and more.
Additionally, as a tribute to their Australian counterparts, Burgess said they special-ordered two cases of Violet Crumble, an Australian candy, for the occasion.
Burgess said the Mahalo Day program is for all the employees in the resort, and for those who have the day off, they can attend by getting a property pass from her.
Overall, she said she anticipated about 1,000 meals being served.
Decor around the room included not only the Hawaiian flag, but the Australian flag of the Po‘ipu’s sister resort, and while a big-screen television broadcast its message of appreciation showing slides of employees at work in different parts of the resort, employees enjoyed the lunch and fellowship under banners saying “Mahalo,” and “Celebrating Our Employees.”
Among those enjoying the lunch was Felix Torres, who had just come home from the Hawaii Army National Guard deployment to Iraq, and Elfie Tumaneng was quick to share photos of her husband’s return with Sears between his lucky-number drawings.
Chandelle Rego, a graduate of Kaua‘i High School’s Academy Of Travel and Tourism program, was one of the employees who was taking in the festivities with her fellow workers Lea Prescott and Julie Bodiford.
Rego, who was with the Camp Hyatt program, was slated to be “moved around” in the next few days.
“We do a lot of things with the high schools,” Burgess said. “The idea is to try and get the students motivated and interested in a job.”
Last Thursday, Burgess coordinated a program with the students and teacher of the Waimea High School Culinary Arts Academy with chef Romel Begonia.
“They were a little slow getting started, but by the time they left, they were with it,” Burgess said.
The program involved the 16 students being broken down into members of various smaller groups to prepare and serve lunch for each other in the setting of Dondero’s, the resort’s Italian restaurant.
Burgess said that Begonia is a real good teacher, and working with other culinary-department staff members, the Waimea students learned the entire operation from front to back.
“This is more than a celebration of ethnicity or culture. This is a celebration of all the achievements we do together,” Taitano said.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.