Smart Chef Hawaii: Buy Time and Eat Well

January 4, 2018, 10:46 AM HST
* Updated September 8, 10:59 AM
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Tropical Fruit Tray created by Smart Chef Hawaii. PC: Karen Rose

There’s much to be said about free time. In fact, Americans are so over-scheduled, the National Academy of Sciences recently published a study suggesting free time is a scarce resource and spending money on time-saving services, rather than material goods, may just be the key to happiness.

From house cleaning, to lawn care, to personal chefs, buying back time may give recipients of these services a boost of positive emotions.

One creative culinary artist is taking this new revelation seriously—she is offering her personal chef services to both locals and visitors to Hawai‘i Island.

“We provide personal chef services for one-time special occasions or for regular meal services,” said Cindy Smart of Smart Chef Hawaii.

Located on the Kona side of the Big Island, Smart’s services include everything from menu design, shopping, cooking and cleanup, so guests can enjoy a private gourmet meal in the comfort of their own home.


“I do a special menu for each person,” said Smart. “That’s one of my specialties—creating a menu that is very cohesive and something that everybody loves. I do all the shopping and I try to find as many local ingredients as I can. Then I go to their home and I cook a meal for them, and then I clean everything up and I leave.”


Smart moved to Hawai‘i after selling her successful day spa in California. Searching for a fresh adventure, Smart and her husband returned to Kona, where they first met and started Smart Chef Hawaii.

“My father was a cook in the military and then he managed restaurants until he retired,” said Smart. “I worked in those and many other restaurants over the years. Also, my mother was a great southern cook, as was my grandmother. I spent long hours in their kitchens in Alabama where I grew up and began my passion with cooking.”

Chicken Piccata created by Smart Chef Hawaii. PC: Karen Rose

In addition to southern comfort food, Smart also incorporates her other living experiences and heritage into her meals.


“I also lived in Mexico, so cook lots of Mexican food,” said Smart. “I’m part Italian and I love to cook Italian. I do Pacific Rim—things that people want when they come to Hawai‘i. So, you can pick and choose how you would like to dine. I probably have 50 to 100 menus to choose from.”

Smart Chef Hawaii is based on the belief that the customers’ needs are of the utmost importance. Smart is committed to meeting and exceeding those needs.

“We always like to do a little extra—nothing that the client is paying for or even expecting,” she said. “It’s our way of promising a little and delivering a lot. As a result, a high percentage of our business is from repeat customers and referrals.”

Many of Smart’s customers are visitors who are referred by a concierge. The concierge will contact her with a request from a visitor who would like a meal made for them for the evening, or for the entire week. Her focus is primarily on small, luxurious parties.

“A lot of people get me confused with a caterer, but what I do is very small, elegant meals anywhere, from two to 10 people,” she said.

Lava Cake created by Smart Chef Hawaii. PC: Karen Rose

Smart finds that many visitors don’t want to cook while on vacation. Even locals want a break from the daily chore of dinner and hire her to create something special for them.

“People love it,” she said. “Oftentimes, they want to be able to stay home and have a glass of wine and not have to drive to a nice restaurant. My meals are something that’s catered to exactly what they want. With our weekly service, up to five meals per week, we shop and cook for you twice a week from your personalized menu selections. Then we cook in your home, ensuring you get tasty, fresh food, great service and variety.”

Smart’s meals range in price from $75 to $125 a person, depending on the menu that they choose.

Her service targets small parties and special occasions.

“You’re being pampered,” she said. “I bring everything to you and I do all the work.”

Customization is key to Smart’s success. She works closely with her clients to find out what their dream meal would be, then creates a dining experience in which everything goes together perfectly from beginning to the end.

Tres Leche Cake created by Smart Chef Hawaii. PC: Karen Rose

Most of the homes in which Smart cooks have everything needed to prepare a gourmet meal; however, she is always up for a challenge.

“I’ve been called out to homes before, and I find when I get there they have nothing but a microwave and a grill and I’m cooking a six-course dinner,” she said. “But that’s super-rare. Most of the homes I work in are very well-accommodated.”

Although she works with a lot of visitors, Smart loves working with locals as well.

“I love to meet new people and sit and talk,” she said. “When guests are here from the mainland, I enjoy suggesting fun things to do and hear their story about how they got here. I have the nicest clients. Seriously. I mean the nicest. When you go and cook for people, they’re in a great mood and in a great place. I’ve never had a bad client. From billionaires to the person on a budget—they’re all wonderful.”

If you would like to buy yourself more time and indulge yourself in a special meal, visit Cindy Smart’s website.

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