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Authentic aloha

June 29th, 2016

Make-A-Wish Hawaii California leukemia patient Adrian, whose original wish was a visit to Sicily, spent the day instead in Waikiki, where he fulfilled a dream to cook Italian food, working with chef James Aptakin to whip up fettucine. wish was to visit Sicily for an authentic Italian culinary experience, but his flight was canceled due to a European airline strike, and his wish was diverted to Hawaii.

Make-A-Wish Hawaii
California leukemia patient Adrian, who was set for a visit to Sicily, spent time instead in Waikiki after an airline strike in Europe curtailed his plans. He met up with M.A.C 24/7 executive chef James Aptakin, who taught him to make fettucine.

Aloha spirit is a term that in many instances must be taken with a grain of salt, as marketers of these islands make much ado of our gracious culture in saccharine (and profitable) ad campaigns and the like.

But the real deal was in fine form June 22 when generous folks in Hawaii's culinary community went all-out to help a 16-year-old leukemia patient indulge his passion for Italian cuisine. Wish kid Adrian spent a day in the kitchen with M.A.C. 24/7 executive chef James Aptakin and sous chef Edmund Kwok, to whip up a fettucine meal.

The private cooking class was arranged on the fly. Adrian and his family had planned to travel from their California home to Sicily for an Italian culinary experience that had been in the works for more than a year. But a European airline strike left them grounded, and within hours the family was rerouted to Hawaii, thanks to the efforts of the Make-A-Wish Hawaii chapter.

The chapter is delivering more than 600 wishes to ill youth this summer and is seeking support. Visit to make a donation.

Make-A-Wish Hawaii  Adrian, 16, fulfilled his dream of cooking Italian cuisine and earned a certificate as a master of fettucine-making.

Make-A-Wish Hawaii
Adrian fulfilled a dream of cooking Italian food and earned a certificate as a master of pasta-making.

When Aptakin heard about Adrian’s change of plans, he got to work organizing an authentic Italian meal for the family that featured Italian salad, handmade fettucine with a variety of sauces and spaghetti gelato for dessert provided by IL Gelato.

Friends of the chef joined the effort with donated gifts for the teen, including a hand-embroidered chef jacket by Malihini Hawaii uniforms, a handmade Koa wood cutting board from Foundwood, a recipe book filled with all the foods from the day, and a certificate of achievement for Adrian for mastering pasta-making.

After Adrian's class, the family — including Adrian's mother, brother and grandmother — sat down to the meal and listened to music by acoustic guitarist Kiana Luna. The family deemed the day a great success.

“Every day since Adrian’s trip was changed, we’ve experienced good omens that everything is as it should be — that we were meant to be here for this experience,” said Jannette, Adrian’s mother. “We were not expecting this at all. It’s so amazing!"

MAC 24/7 is in the Hilton Waikiki Beach hotel at 2500 Kuhio Ave. True to its name, it is open 24 hours a day, everyday. Visit

Since 1982, Make-A-Wish Hawaii has granted wishes to more than 13,000 youth with life-threatening medical conditions. The Hawaii chapter is among the busiest in the nation, assisting not only isle youth with their wishes, but coordinating the wishes of kids from across the globe seeking a visit to Hawaii. The chapter has more than 700 volunteers and 200 business partners.

For more information on Make-A-Wish Hawaii, visit or call 537-3118.

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Tanioka's caring spirit extends beyond the counter

March 4th, 2016

Jasmine Tanioka, left, and Wendy Golz work alongside one another at Tanioka's business office in Waipahu. Golz, a longtime friend of Jasmine, volunteers her time to run Tanioka's Charity Foundation.

Jasmine Tanioka, left, and Wendy Golz work alongside one another at Tanioka's business office in Waipahu. Golz, a friend of Jasmine's, volunteers her time to run Tanioka's Charity Foundation.

Though Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering is probably best known in the community for its poke, fried chicken and fish patties, what comes in a close second is the hospitality. Lines can be long at the little shop that packs in everything from musubi to snacks alongside the popular food items, yet people patronize them regularly.

Why? Because the line moves so quickly, thanks to helpful workers who populate the counter along the long food cases. And it’s always service with a smile.

I asked Jasmine Tanioka, daughter of founders Mel and Lynne Tanioka, how the family found so many nice people to work for them.

“We hire for the whole person,” she said. “If you talk to someone for just a little while, you can pretty much tell what kind of person they are. You can teach anyone a skill, but you can’t teach a good heart.”

A good example doesn’t hurt, either.

Tanioka’s helps at least one charity a week. That could be anything from providing a gift basket for a silent auction to donating proceeds from its annual golf tournament that Mel started more than 20 years ago.

In fact, the Tanioka family is so serious about assisting the community that they created Tanioka’s Charity Foundation, a rigorous project headed up by Wendy Golz, Jasmine’s longtime friend.

“I just love to help people. This is such an awesome opportunity,” said Golz, a retiree who volunteers her time to run the foundation.

The list of beneficiaries is long and varied, including the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts and agencies that assist the homeless. One project involved collecting and donating clothing for a women’s shelter and another centered on purchasing shoes for students at a Nanakuli school. The business’ largest recipient is Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, a beneficiary of Tanioka’s annual charity dinner.

A current ongoing project is the Cool It Campaign, which raises money to provide air conditioning in classrooms at Waipahu High School.

“They’re our neighbors. We’re very conscious of the community, and we want to help so much,” said Jasmine Tanioka.

She credits her parents for instilling caring values that have carried on through the generations and into the store. Growing up, charity started at home, she said.

“My parents have always been very generous people. Though they worked seven days a week, they always made time for us. My dad coached soccer for 12 years for (brother) Justin's teams," she said.

Today, her 7-year-old son enjoys passing out gifts to hospital patients.

Meanwhile, the semi-retired Mel can often be found tending to folks standing in line — “He brings cookies and candies from home,” said his daughter.

“One Yelp reviewer said a man with a mustache was feeding people in line. They didn’t know it was my dad!”

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