Masayo’s Restaurant in Waimea, Hawaii was owned and operated by an incredible woman named, Masayo Hamora. I am surely blessed to call her mom, my mother-in-law. I speak of her in this post because she has done something we should all aspire to do in life……make a difference. Waimea, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a small town, but known to be home of one of the oldest cattle ranches in the country, Parker Ranch. It was home to the “paniolo”, which is the word there for Hawaiian Cowboy. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who does not know of Masayo and her iconic restaurant.
She started working as a cook in a small deli before opening her own little restaurant in 1980. It had a U-shaped counter with about 20 stools. It was open from 5 am and closed by 2 pm, catering to all of the early morning workers, and patrons that knew they had to get there early to enjoy her now famous Beef Curry Stew. Now, there may be many recipes for Beef Curry that can claim to be very good stew, but, there was definitely something about Masayo’s stew. Maybe, it was the love and commitment that went into it, getting up at 2 am every morning to prepare this pot of stew for all those that would stop by that day.
A competitor on Food Network Stars, who is now a chef in his own restaurant, was asked who was the most influential person in his life as a chef. He said it was Masayo Hamora and called her a Kitchen Magician. There are so many that can testify of how often she would cook their meal, and than, take the time to talk and visit with them. Her story is pure nostalgia. She knew everyone, and everyone that ever stopped by her restaurant, got to know her and her wonderful home-cooked meals. Whether it was the “paniolo”, local celebrity, or a visitor passing through town, she did not only cook their meal, she would sit and talk to them.
She worked this restaurant for 15 years, as a single mom of two, rarely missing a day. I have never known anyone to work as hard and committed as Masayo Hamora. I remember helping out one day, and let me just say, at the end of the day, I could not feel my limbs. I was in my early thirties, and worked just one day, she did it every day, for fifteen years. Masayo’s was a gathering place in this sleepy little town called Waimea. She is missed.
Masayo retired in 1995. She now lives with her daughter Patty and son-in-law John, in Virgie, Kentucky. She is 84 years old, and though she loves beautiful Kentucky, she will never forget the islands and the people she touched. She is so much more than just a cook, and the love she put into her food is only matched by the love she gave everyone who sat at the counter of her restaurant to eat.
Masayo, in Japanese, means “elegant generation”. It is such an appropriate description. Because of her influence, our children and even grandchildren, love the art of cooking. But, more importantly, there is a generation of people whose lives she has touched, either by her unconditional way of caring or her home-cooked meals.
Masayo has given me permission to share the recipe for her Beef Curry Stew. I am so blessed to have this woman in my life and though there is so much more to her story, I hope every time you share this meal with family, you will think of her.