Twin Cities Hawaiian restaurants team up to support those impacted by Maui wildfires
Two Hawaiian restaurants in the metro are teaming up to help those impacted by the devastating wildfires tearing through Maui.
“It’s still surreal to me. It hits too close to home,” said Warren Seta, chef and owner of Ono Hawaiian Plates in Minneapolis.
Seta was born in Honolulu but lived on Maui for many years before moving to the Twin Cities with his wife eight years ago.
“We both worked in Lahaina, where all that devastation is now,” Seta said.
“Both of us worked on Front Street and both of our former restaurants are just unrecognizable, I mean, just a pile of ash,” said Jessie Kelley, Seta’s wife, who owns the restaurant with him.
The fast-moving fires began Tuesday night, fueled by strong winds from a passing hurricane, catching many people on the island off guard.
As of Friday, six fires were still burning on Maui and the Big Island, with the fires 80% contained.
Authorities say the wildfires are now Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster since a tsunami back in the 1960s.
At least 55 people have died and about a thousand people are still unaccounted for, although authorities said that spotty communication on the island may be preventing people from contacting their loved ones.
“I’ve been reaching out to everyone I know and there’s still probably about 30 people I’m waiting to hear back from. I’m worried about all of them,” Kelley said.
The couple has other friends on Maui whose homes were destroyed by the fires.
“They lost their homes and everything in it,” Kelley said. “They have nothing, you know? They’re sleeping on the tennis court.”
Seta added, “So there is a sense of urgency but there’s also that long-term help they’re going to need.”
The couple is now planning a luau fundraiser with another Hawaiian restaurant in the metro, Pau Hana in Savage.
“I think it’s important we do whatever we can, no matter how small,” said Chris Ikeda, chef and owner of Pau Hana. “Hawaiian regional cuisine restaurants, there’s not a lot of us in the Twin Cities metro, so we’re pretty tight-knit ohana.”
Ikeda lived in Hawaii for about a decade, working in the culinary industry, and said the Hawaiian people always share the “spirit of aloha” with Minnesota tourists.
“They’re hurting right now, so it’s our turn to share aloha with them,” Ikeda said.
The luau will take place on Aug. 21 at Ono Hawaiian Plates in the North Loop, featuring an all-you-can-eat Hawaiian buffet, music and entertainment.
“All ticket sales, 100% of ticket sales are going to go toward the Maui Relief Fund,” Kelley said.
The restaurants hope Minnesotans will rally around the people of Maui, even if they do not know anyone impacted by the fires.
“We’re all one ‘ohana,'” Seta said. “Growing up in Hawaii, that’s how we looked at life. No matter where you’re from, you’re all one big ohana. You’ve all got something in common.”
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has also compiled a list of resources for those wanting to help.