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Lava Lava Beach Club: Local Girl, Local Food

Lava Lava Beach Club’s pineapple fried rice with shrimp, soybeans, egg and a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. Photo courtesy of Lava Lava Beach Club.

Lava Lava Beach Club’s pineapple fried rice with shrimp, soybeans, egg and a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. Photo courtesy of Lava Lava Beach Club.

Lava Lava Beach Club’s pineapple fried rice with shrimp, soybeans, egg and a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. Photo courtesy of Lava Lava Beach Club.


When Chef Kim Brun left Lava Lava Beach Club after helping the new restaurant open in 2015, something told her to keep her emblazoned Sous Chef coat. And it’s a good thing, as she sits in front of me over two years later wearing it while she waits for her new “Chef” coat to come in. She returned to the restaurant in April 2017 and was recently promoted to the head chef role, leading the kitchen in serving Hawaiian-themed fare to guests with their toes dipped in the sand.

“It was a blessing for me,” says Kim. It’s no surprise Lava Lava Beach Club feels like home. Chef Kim, who was featured on The Travel Channel, grew up in Wailua house lots with her grandparents just up the road. Although her uncle was a chef and she indulged in her grandparents’ ono cooking, it wasn’t until she moved to Oahu in 2001 that she got bit by the food bug. Between her childhood food memories and watching cooking shows, she eventually began her culinary career, crediting Tiki Grill & Bar in Waikiki with teaching her the ropes while she learned on the job.
Chef Kim Brun of Lava Lava Beach Club. Photo courtesy of Lava Lava Beach Club.

Chef Kim Brun of Lava Lava Beach Club. Photo courtesy of Lava Lava Beach Club.


Today she gets inspiration from fellow female chef Lee Anne Wong and the abundance that Kauai provides. While the Lava Lava Beach Club menu is all made from scratch in house – it’s fairly standardized to its sister location on Hawaii Island. Yet Chef Kim gets to play with the daily specials, and even collaborates with the bar to pair their drink and food specials for the day. (Insider tip: the daily Hook Line & Sinker fish special is made fresh highlighting local ingredients, and is usually paired with the Okole Maluna cocktail of the day!).
Kim tries to use as much local as she can, including produce from Kauai Fresh Farms, Makaweli Meat Co., and fresh catches from local fishermen. She also stops by the nearby farmers market, and purchases from “whoever walks in the door” with their freshly picked harvests. “Fresh food just tastes better,” she says.
Locals are starting to catch on that this isn’t your typical hotel restaurant. Lava Lava Beach Club updated their lunch menu in December and Chef Kim is always trying out “crazy stuffs” in the kitchen for her specials. Some of her recent highlights include fish lau lau with ulu (breadfruit) mashed potatoes, and Chinese shoyu-steamed fish and poi with sautéed local mushrooms and green onions. Her kitchen team’s diverse backgrounds blend with the local cuisine in fun and interesting ways, and Kim is proud to be able to encourage them to shine and try things out that represent their heritage. She admits some visitors are less adventurous about trying local cuisine. “But if you throw pineapple on it, it flies out the door,” she laughs.
So of course they have lots of pineapple. During my visit I got to try the pineapple fried rice bowl with teriyaki steak, and from tasting it I get the pineapple thing – this stuff is mean! The perfectly seasoned pineapple fried rice was drool-worthy with pieces of precisely tender soybeans and meaty chunks of egg, and their sweet yet savory teriyaki sauce was really well-balanced and stood out. And perhaps it has reason to be – the sauce recipe has been in the owner’s ohana since 1969. 
I also tried their Bambu Pupu – a popular sampling of ahi nachos, coconut shrimp and fritto misto, which was crunchy, incredibly well spiced, and attractively displayed in a cut bamboo stalk. The artichoke hearts and ginger-guava sauce were a refreshing addition to lighten up the fried seafood-focused fare. So what’s chef’s favorite dish? Their flatbread pizzas. “Everything is made from scratch, they’re so good,” she says.
For the future of Lava Lava Beach Club and herself as a chef, Kim looks forward to deepening their relationships in the community through more charitable efforts that give back to her home, and increasing local food procurement to create tasty dishes that nourish the community as well as their guests. When we met, she had gotten surgery on her arm just 10 days prior – and was impressively driven to get back to work within four days – so I don’t see how anything would stand in her way of seeing her vision realized. And given her vision, I hope nothing does.

Guest blogger Megan Fox is the Executive Director of Malama Kauai, a local nonprofit focused on increasing the production and consumption of local food, as well as a devout foodie and locavore.