Talk Story: Rebecca Carnate

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Rebecca Carnate talks about the renovations they did to Rebecca’s Kitchen in Kaumakani to qualify for the Dept. of Health green “Pass” placard.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Rebecca Carnate and her mother, Lycrecia Carnate, work on kalamungay leaves for their Mungo Bean Soup at the Kaumakani kitchen.

Where is the place to eat in Kaumakani?

Rebecca’s Kitchen is a unique kitchen offering “local and Filipino food” on a call-in or pick-up basis in the building sandwiched between Aloha Delites, or more commonly known as Thrifty Mart, and the Kaumakani post office.

“We got the green ‘Pass’ card,” said Rebecca Carnate, owner and lead cook of Rebecca’s Kitchen. “My parents owned and operated a Filipino variety store in this space. They did it like the old days when, if you didn’t have enough money, they would extend you credit for your purchases until the next paycheck. They were very busy.”

Normally open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Rebecca’s Kitchen sported a “Closed” sign Wednesday as Carnate and her mother Lycrecia Carnate prepped for the 12th annual Dine Out for Hunger event benefiting the Kauai Independent Food Bank.

Steeped in the flavors of plantation-camp life, Rebecca’s Kitchen is one of the 19 participating eateries from around the island where 10 percent of a diner’s food bill was contributed to the Kauai Independent Food Bank to help fuel its programs that help feed Kauai’s hungry people.

“This is a way we can support community — give people good food to enjoy, and helping to feed others who are needing,” said Carnate, one of the newest members of the East Kauai Lions Club.

Lycrecia Carnate sat quietly at a large, kitchen-style table, stripping leaflets off larger kalamungay leaves, while Rebecca Carnate flitted about getting the cooking stations ready.

“This is what we’re using for the mungo bean soup,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to get, but we got some and mom is doing this like how other Filipino women clean their vegetables, working each leaf one by one. When my dad passed, we decided to keep the space, and when the Kaumakani Federal Credit Union closed, we picked up that space, too. This is when we decided to open the kitchen. See the concrete landing to the window? That’s where people used to exchange money to send to the Philippines. We put the concrete in so people’s feet wouldn’t get muddy when it rains.”

The acquisition of additional space gave birth to Rebecca’s Kitchen, which shares the former credit union footprint with Hair Fanatic’s Salon #2 operated by Panny Machado and closed on Sunday and Wednesday.

“I love food,” Carnate said. “My sister Rhoda and I decided to do this. We have seven children in the family, and dad was the best cook of all of us. We watched him cook and learned. I do turkey tails. I’m one of the few people who can do turkey tails in either adobo style, fried or roasted. When we had a large order to do for a family gathering, I called all the people I knew and asked if they wanted some because I was making it.”

Her specialties form the core of the restaurant’s offerings, the remainder being supplemented by sister Rhoda’s contributions.

“I can do pork and peas, pork adobo, chicken adobo, blood meat, and because we have the kalamungay, we’re doing the mungo bean soup for the food bank,” she said. “It’s very nutritious and good for you. We also do an organic super smoothie — either in a drink style or in a bowl.”

“Rhoda has a job to take care of,” Carnate said. “But she comes and is known for her banana lumpia. We can all do lumpia, but she does it really good. She also does a veggie lumpia with ground meat. She’s also good with pasteles and egg rolls.”

Rebecca’s Kitchen’s specials of late included a mix seafood plate with garlic butter shrimp skewers, shrimp tempura, fish sticks, and rice, garlic butter shrimp skewers plate with corn and rice, shrimp tempura plate with corn and rice,” and a bento mix plate with garlic butter skewers, shrimp tempura, fish sticks, hot dogs, pork sausage, and fried chicken.

Rebecca’s Kitchen emerged following her separation from her husband.

“This was particularly hard,” Carnate said. “We opened late last year, but we had to close for a while because I went back to school to get my credentials in nursing. Not just nursing, but credentials so I could operate a care home as well. We just re-opened, and it is hard because people had become used to where it was and we had to close.”

During that time, Carnate worked on taking the credit union space and streamlining it to accommodate both the salon and the kitchen.

“I worked with the health department people and did everything we needed to in order to get the green ‘Pass’ card,” she said. “I would love to have a big stove, but you need to get the vent. I would love more space, but this is all we have so we just have to make do to be in compliance.”

“We’re not very big,” the young entrepreneur said. “We don’t have the big stoves so we cannot produce things in large quantities. Instead, we do everything to order so people know that it’s fresh. We can do big families if they call in because we need time to prep. Everything is fresh.”

The renovations and building leave room for future growth because of the empty lot separating the buildings.

“One day I might do a barbecue, outdoors,” she said. “There is a lot of room to do things. And, we have a lot of parking. We’re right next door to Ni‘ihau Helicopters — I keep telling them I want to go to Ni‘ihau one day — and they’re busy, mostly in the mornings. There is a lot of parking.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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