Big Island, Hawaii, USA
For Chef ‘Ölelo pa‘a Faith Ogawa, cooking is a spiritual act. Born on O‘ahu, Ogawa was raised on the Waipahu sugar plantation where her multigenerational family worked. Her grandmother was a farmer, and the family grew vegetables and traded for island fish, in the spirit of old Hawai‘i.
“We ate foods like Okinawan spinach, cabbages, fresh fish, lilikoi [passion fruit], soybeans, guava, taro, sweet potatoes and their leaves, and mangoes” she says. “Back then, we didn’t call it Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, we called it dinner.”
In the 1970s, Ogawa completed the culinary program at the University of Hawaii and has since taken her love of fresh, sustainable, local island ingredients and created a personal cooking style she calls “Conscious Hawaiian Cuisine.” As a personal chef, she serves a clientele that includes celebrities, executives of Fortune 500 companies, and others who appreciate fine regional and artesian Hawaiian cuisine.
Eating with Ogawa is a one-of-a-kind adventure. Her goal is to use the best local, sustainable island ingredients in creative and delicious ways. She often cooks with things like wild ‘ohelo berries, hö‘i‘o (fiddlehead fern), ogo (seaweed), and farm-raised, omega-3-rich Kona Kampachi fish. Lunch might include spicy Hawaiian-style Caesar salad, with baby romaine lettuce from Hirabara Farms, sprinkled with toasted macadamia nuts and tossed with a hint of Hawaiian chili pepper. Next, a sautéed filet of fresh mahimahi might be served with a vine-ripened tomato and Maui onion confit, with a creamy sauce of coconut and wilted taro leaves. Or perhaps she’ll offer tiny fork-tender, fresh farm-raised abalone from Big Island Abalone, lightly breaded and cooked in butter and capers. Or spicy Kauai Shrimp. And she might serve it with mashed ulu (breadfruit) with truffle oil (very deicious) or breadfruit au gratin.
(At a recent Hawaiian cuisine event sponsored by the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau (www.gohawaii.com), RFT editor Bobbie Hasselbring was treated to some of Chef Ogawa’s delicious dishes, including her fabulous abalone. Wonderful!)
But for Chef ‘Olelo Pa’a, there are no set menus. Every client is different, and her sense of knowing what each one will enjoy is the result of years of experience and of her personal spiritual evolution. “Everything has energy,” she says. “Sometimes I go to pick a mango and I hear a voice that says,’No, not that one, it’s not ripe.’ The same is true cooking for clients. One time I was planning to cook shrimp as one of the dishes for a client dinner party, but something at the last minute told me not to. It turned out that the client was deathly allergic to shrimp.”
‘Olelo Pa’a’s spiritual growth – and her own cooking career — really kicked off 10 years ago when she enrolled in Self-Identity Ho‘oponopono Training (www.hooponopono.org) on the Big Island. “It taught me how we impact everything around us through our thoughts, words, and actions.”
Her spiritual training marked a new beginning, and a new name. A beloved Hawaiian mentor bestowed her with the name of ‘Ölelo pa‘a, (pronounced oh le lo pah ah) explaining that the kauna, or underlying meaning, of her name is “forever, the very spark of existence.”
She also launched her business, Dining By Faith, and a line of artsian Hawaiian products such as handpicked green tea, island honey, and specialty coffee under the “Glow Hawai‘i” name. She also helped establish the Hawai‘i chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, an educational and philanthropic organization of women leaders in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry.
Today,on Hawai‘i’s Big Island, Chef ‘Olelo Pa’a shares the flavors of Hawai‘i’s through her distinct Conscious Hawaiian Cuisine™, cooking demonstrations, and Glow Hawai‘i Products. Visit www.glowhawaii.com.