Aloha Plate ready for new challenges
BY JOLEEN OSHIRO / firstname.lastname@example.org
Even before their big win on Sunday, Sept. 30, on Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” the Aloha Plate team had already gotten calls from all over the United States to open franchises featuring Hawaii-style food.
Everywhere, that is, except Hawaii.
No one is more baffled than team member Lanai Tabura, but true to the determination that helped carry his team to victory, he’s steadfast about where he stands.
“Hawaii needs a flagship store,” he said.
It’s no surprise savvy business people are seeking to capitalize on the success of brothers Lanai and Adam Tabura and their stand-up comedian buddy Shawn Felipe, 39. The Hawaii team stirred up notice wherever they stopped, not just for their sunny yellow truck decorated with hula dancers and a volcano, but for their unwavering commitment to delivering aloha with each plate they served — and those were many.
In virtually every city, long lines of customers greeted Aloha Plate as they rolled in. It seems folks everywhere crave a little bit of anything from the islands.
“To them Hawaii is paradise,” said Lanai Tabura, 44. “Hawaii has perfect weather, and these people are dying from the cold.”
Now that they have won a $50,000 prize, along with the food truck from the show, Aloha Plate has some seed money to pursue whatever venture the team chooses. On the table are deals with Hormel, maker of Spam, and Noh Foods.
At 7-Eleven Hawaii stores, Aloha Plate will sell bentos, Spam musubi and sandwiches. Part of the profits will go to supportmyclass.org, a website where public school teachers can post wish lists for their classrooms.
“Schoolteachers spend an average of $40 a month of their own money, and they don’t get big salaries,” Tabura said. “We’ll supply everything from pencils to slippers. Did you hear about some of the kids in Nanakuli? Sometimes they cannot go school because they don’t have slippers. They get sent home.”
The recipes for the 7-Eleven food will be crafted by Adam Tabura, 37, a trained chef who calls his cooking style “refined plantation,” simple “country-style food” with a twist. In fact, the dish that got the team into the competition reflected the chef’s concept: braised brisket loco moco that included gravy made from the brisket jus and a poached egg on top.
Since then, Adam Tabura’s had time to up the ante further. A breakfast dish he hopes to feature on Aloha Plate’s menu, wherever they end up opening, is his Polynesian Love. It features roasted sweet potatoes and taro cooked with caramelized onions and coconut milk, served with braised corned beef and two poached duck eggs.
As for the food truck, the team doesn’t yet know if or when it will roll on isle streets. It is still on the mainland, and the team will drive it to a California food event in the coming days.
Aloha Plate competed against seven food truck teams for the prize. While their standard menu featured teriyaki and Spam burgers and lettuce wraps, the team added such specialties as geoduck, bison and Maryland blue crab as they traveled across the country. Other teams offered cheese steaks, sliders, healthy bowls and hot dogs.
The trucks competed in cities that included Beverly Hills, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Pocatello, Idaho; Rapid City, S.D.; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Chicago; Annapolis, Md.; Arlington, Va.; and Washington, D.C.
Key to Aloha Plate’s win was the coconut wireless, people with island ties spreading the word of the truck’s presence in each city.
Aloha Plate often took first place during the seven weeks of the contest, meaning it had top sales.
At the final destination in Washington, the team brought in a whopping $14,850; runner-up Tikka Tikka Taco, which served Indian-style tacos, trailed with $11,774.