Show Aloha helps restaurants, provides hot meals to kupuna
KAHULUI — As he was handed an $11,000 check Tuesday, Chef Sheldon Simeon said he was “super blessed” to be part of a volunteer effort to deliver hot meals to kupuna while helping mom-and-pop restaurants struggling in the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s amazing,” Simeon said. “The community’s just been supportive. We’re just trying to do our best to stay open. It’s things like this that help out small businesses big time. We’re super blessed to be feeding the kupuna.”
Tin Roof restaurant, owned by Simeon and his wife, Janice, will be preparing 120 meals a day for at least 11 days as part of the Show Aloha Challenge. The meals will be delivered to kupuna who are 60 years or older, have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk for further medical complications and have limited resources.
The volunteer effort to help senior citizens, as well as small local restaurants, was started on Oahu last month by Mike Gangloff, president of Mira Image Construction. A $50,000 donation from Hawaiian Electric is paying for the expansion to Maui and Lanai today, followed by Hilo next week, organizers said.
“It’s amazing how people have been jumping in to help,” said Colin Kaalele, who heads Maui operations for the construction company working on the Wailuku Civic Center Phase 1A project at Church and Vineyard streets. “It’s the spirit of ohana on Maui. Hopefully, more businesses and more people want to get involved so we can feed for a little while longer.”
He and Mayor Michael Victorino were on hand as the Simeons received the check at their restaurant in Kahului.
“These guys make great food,” said Victorino, who showed up to lend his support for the volunteer effort. “You’re not going to go wrong.”
Like other businesses, Tin Roof has made adjustments to continue.
Its popular lunch counter is closed, while the restaurant remains open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for takeout orders only.
“Business has dropped significantly,” Janice Simeon said.
As a result, employees were laid off, leaving just the Simeons and two other workers to run the restaurant.
“People are being more cautious now about where they’re spending their money,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of new locals.”
Some have been drawn in by the fat chow fun noodles and fresh saimin noodles being sold in bulk for family-style home cooking, Sheldon Simeon said.
He said most people are placing orders online before picking up food. That was already part of the business before the COVID-19 pandemic, so a system was in place, Simeon said. Pickup orders are meticulously put together “down to utensils and shoyu packets,” Simeon said.
For Show Aloha Challenge, Fresh Island Fish donated ono and other fish to the restaurant.
Simeon said he will be preparing “definitely things that are healthy takes on local classics.”
“We’ll be doing chicken long rice, kalua pig and cabbage, real soulful things,” he said. “We’ll be continuing on the flavors of Tin Roof, just knowing that a lot of times the kupuna don’t get a chance to come to Tin Roof.”
At the end of January, Simeon stepped away from Lineage restaurant at the Shops at Wailea to spend more time with his family, including four children.
When Lanai Tabura, who is working on the effort with Gangloff, reached out to ask if Simeon would provide meals for Show Aloha Challenge, “I was practically in tears, coming off a rough day,” Simeon said.
He has participated in events with Tabura and has appeared on his “Cooking Hawaiian Style” television show.
“We both come from humble roots,” said Simeon, who grew up in a plantation town on Hawaii island.
With his business having its ups and downs, “this is a ray of sunshine,” Simeon said.
“Anything helps,” he said. “I’m thankful that these guys are helping put a spotlight on Tin Roof. Just to be part of the program, that’s huge. Whether it’s one meal or 120 meals a day, we’re super blessed for every single person we get to feed.
“We’ll be preparing this as if it was for our own grandparents.”
Simeon said the restaurant’s landlord is among those who have donated to Show Aloha Challenge.
“Especially in this crisis, you think it takes a village,” he said. “It truly does, whether it’s people on the front line, whether it’s our colleagues staying open or people just staying home and wearing their masks. You see how critical everybody’s position in the community is. We’re just trying to do our part.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.