I’ve spent a lot of time this past year daydreaming of Hawai‘i, which makes me like a good portion of the U.S. — as the New York Times recently reported, tourists have already begun flocking to the islands. It’s a trend Sheldon Simeon, chef at Maui’s Tin Roof, has noticed. And while the third-generation local welcomes the visitors, he admits that the past few weeks have been a bit overwhelming. “I think our community hasn’t been ready for the amount of tourists to come back to the state,” he says. “I think it’s our duty to continue to educate them, and for them to be respectful of what we have.” His new cookbook, Cook Real Hawaiʻi, is in part meant to do just that.
Interspersed among recipes for foods that feel quintessentially of Hawai‘i — like chicken Hekka, which Simeon describes as “something Japanese-rooted and Japanese-based, but it’s not found in Japan; it’s only found in Hawai‘i” — Simeon and coauthor Garret Snyder delve into Hawai‘i’s colonial history and the people and forces that have given rise to its unique, vibrant food culture. “The outside perception of Hawai‘i is very resort-ish, amusement park-ish — it might be only the hula skirts and the mai tais and that stuff, but if you dig deeper, it’s a lot richer,” Simeon says. “My hope is that [Cook Real Hawai‘i readers] have a different perception of what Hawai‘i is.”