Waipi‘o Cookhouse: A True Farm-to-Table Experience
Waipi‘o Cookhouse owner Larry Vidlak began growing his own food on his property in Kukuihaele in 2010.
In 2012, he decided he wanted to open a smoothie stand on his property.
After checking with the Hawai‘i County planning and zoning divisions, he learned that he could actually operate a restaurant on his property—and thus began the journey which brought about the existence of the Waipi‘o Cookhouse.
The restaurant is situated on 16 acres of pristine land between the 8- and 9-mile markers on Highway 240 in the little town of Kukuihaele.
The sitting area offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as a sneak peek at the ridges above the majestic Waipi‘o Valley.
Once there, it does not take long before one realizes that this restaurant is one of, if not the only, actual “farm-to-table” restaurant of its kind in the state of Hawai‘i.
Nearly all of its ingredients are either farmed or grown by Larry himself right there on the land.
“I believe in serving nothing but the best that our state has to offer,” Larry said. “If I do need to purchase something that I do not farm or grow on the property, I immediately head to the local farmers’ markets or approach farmers who grows what I am looking for.”
The beautiful hardwood countertops and uniquely designed table-and-bench combos in the dining pavilion were created by Larry.
After ordering you may sit in the pavilion or out at one of the picnic tables on the lawn.
While he will readily admit and own up to the struggles he has faced with planning, developing, building and running the restaurant and farm, Larry is also quick to offer his insights into how he had to learn to handle employees and customers alike.
Once a week, Larry wakes up in the wee morning hours to fire up the huge barbeque pit and also the imu (underground oven) and begins the painstakingly slow process of making the brisket, kalua pork and smoking the house-made bacon— a process that takes 16 hours each time to get it all done.
Waipi’o Cookhouse prides itself on not just being one of the only—if not the only actual farm-to-table restaurants in the state—but, also prides itself on the quality of its ingredients and its patience in cooking food slowly to ensure all of the best flavors are extracted which will guarantee the food is “ono” (good).
For instance, the gravy used on their loco plates—they actually make it from scratch using beef shank bones that are baked, then boiled and then turned into heavenly gravy goodness that might tempt you into licking your plate.
Larry grows his own herbs, eggplant, beets, green beans, bananas, citrus and raises his own sheep, pigs and cows.
The farm is host to dwarf coconut trees and over 20 different varieties of bananas—from the cooking type to the non-cooking varieties that allow you to just peel and eat.
While some of the different varieties have not thrived as well as hoped, Larry is especially proud to have on his property the variety known as pupu‘ulu, which is said to have been the favorite of King Kamehameha.
“We try to grow everything that we can—even simple things like mint for garnishes,” said Larry. “But, I think what is more important is that we teach the younger generation the importance of farming. The average age of a farmer is 64 years old. That is not good. We need younger people to find the interest and become farmers, too. We offer farm tours and have had students come to see exactly what we are doing here.”
“Right now the Waipi‘o Cookhouse needs to build permanent bathroom facilities which will allow us to expand what we are doing here and offer more to our community,” said Larry. “We have an amazing location with a breathtaking view, but somehow the portapotties in the corner just don’t help.”
You can help by donating to Larry’s campaign to raise the $30,000 that it will take to complete the bathroom.
Go to https://www.gofundme.com/restrooms-for-waipio-cookhouse if you would like to help.
You can also visit the Waip‘io Cookhouse website for more information.
The food is amazing the view is spectacular and the concept is attainable.
If you’re in the area, it is well worth your time to check out the Waipi‘o Cookhouse for yourself. The term “farm to table” will be defined visually for you just after one visit.
Waipi‘o Cookhouse is located at 48-5370 Honoka‘a-Waipi‘o Road in Honoka‘a.
The cookhouse is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Call (808) 775-1443 for more information.