NUKOLI‘I — Chef Mark Arriola started as the executive chef at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort in February.
Days later, he was feeling the impact of the novel coronavirus that made its appearance in Hawai‘i resulting in the closure of hotels, restaurants, and other businesses on Kaua‘i.
“I was the newest member of the team,” Arriola said. “This was really rough. I had to lay off people who had been here for years.”
That experience adds to the bank of experiences that governs the food coming out of the kitchens at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort that remains open to support the essential workers, vital industries, and people needing a place to stay.
“We have to keep going,” said Arriola whom Niklas Dahm, the Kaua‘i Beach Resort Director of Operations describes as celebrating food for its glory. “We have to keep our fishermen like Kevin Yamase who supplies most of the fish we use to keep going out to fish.”
The Naupaka Terrace is open for take-out daily from Monday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. where Arriola oversees, and in many instances, prepares the family-style meals that lean toward using locally-sourced ingredients.
“It’s basically local foods with good taste, and looks good,” Arriola said. “We’re just taking care of people — the people heading home from work, the farmers, and people like Kevin who needs to keep working.”
Adding to the basic take out menu, Arriola adds Box Meals to Finish where the meal is prepackaged and waits to be cooked before enjoying it.
Diners can either finish it by themselves at home, or wait until Arriola hosts his social media cooking demonstrations that take place on Instagram Live on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
“It’s like putting a face to cooking,” Arriola said. “We do it around the time people need to start preparing their evening meal, and viewers are able to ask questions — it is live. Our first demonstration was taking one of Kevin’s fish — he is such a small guy, a lot of the fish he brings in are larger than him — and breaking it down.”
The face to cooking is seasoned with the experiences with people like Yamase, farmers from the farmers market, and other providers of food and food services.
“We’re all connected,” Arriola said. “When the record-breaking rains hit and flooded parts of Koloa four years ago, I grabbed a couple of pizzas and went over to help. I saw this guy — hey, he’s the guy that does the chemicals in the kitchen, and another guy was the person who did other tasks in the kitchen.”
Arriola said during the first days of the resort’s closure due to the COVID-19, he bought fish from Yamase, cut and blocked it, and moved it out at cost.
“We gotta keep going,” Arriola said. “It’s not about making money. We need to keep people going — Kevin going out to get more fish, the farmers keeping on producing.”
Arriola remembers the early days to shopping the farmers market for menu items.
“These are some of my best friends,” he said. “They would see me coming, and they knew what I needed and wanted. They would set things aside because they knew I could use them.”
These seasonings are steeped into the variety of dishes ranging from the bento bowls, salads, and sandwiches, including a KBR Burger featuring Kaua‘i beef, and a Fresh Island Catch Sandwich from the Take Out Menu.
“This period is a great start of a food journey,” Arriola said. “When I had to lay off the crew, I told myself, ‘these guys gotta have something to come back to.’ I need to grow with them because we care that they care.”
Dahm said Arriola is like a pineapple — a crown on his head, sweet on the inside, and thick skin.
He added that Kaua‘i Beach Resort is working with Menu Point to facilitate the menu ordering process.
“Call 245-1955 to order and pay online, and the order will be ready for pickup,” Dahm said. “It’s all about taking care of people. We want it to be good, and easy.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.