Text by Jessica Flint | Images courtesy of Love Lanai
“I am very impressed,” says Nobu Matsuhisa, the iconic chef proprietor of his namesake Japanese restaurant empire. He’s on the island of Lāna‘i, standing in the extensive private garden where his team of chefs from his Nobu outpost at the Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i at Manele Bay grow and pick their vegetables. There’s asparagus over there, carrots over here; tomatoes, beets, kale, and edamame, too. Not to mention the spicy serrano peppers used in the restaurant’s signature dish, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. The chefs say they want 90 percent of the restaurant’s vegetables to come from the garden. Matsuhisa, wearing a blue shirt, gray shorts, and sneakers, takes a bite out of a just-picked ear of corn. “That’s so sweet!” he says. “Natural, it’s the best.”
The garden scene is being filmed, and it will later be cut into a video that will find itself on the website Love Lanai, a new initiative that seeks to bridge Lāna‘i’s past and present, and present it to the world.
For there are big plans for this little 141-square-mile island which is home to 3,200 people. In 2012, Oracle founder Larry Ellison purchased the majority of Lāna‘i. (Ellison also owns Island Air.) Since then, efforts have been underway to improve the island’s schools and establish green energy, clean water, and commercial agriculture. The island is committed to developing, advancing, and nurturing a compassionate, philanthropic future, and Love Lanai invites the global community to come along for the ride.
“We have done so many improvements to truly create that sense of place,” says Tom Roelens, the general manager of Four Seasons Resorts Lāna‘i. “Up at The Lodge at Koele, you have this beautiful scenery of pine trees and horses, you have croquet, you have an orchid house and beautiful lawns. At Manele Bay, you have a totally different feel. You have the quintessential luxury Hawaiian resort—water activities, world-class golf.”
Like Matsuhisa, Roelens is on-camera as part of the Love Lanai video gallery, which features a scenic tour around the island through the eyes of its community, from artist and gallery owner Mike Carroll and competitive croquet player Bruno Ambry to artisan weaver Uncle Bully and Ida Kuhzarani, Adore by Seaside Luxe shop staffer. “The people of Lāna‘i are so warm and are truly happy to welcome you as part of this aloha spirit,” Roelens says. “I believe that is what Lāna‘i is really all about.”
Community, after all, is one of Love Lanai’s core values—it aims to serve the local residents and provide a network for philanthropy through collaborations with like-minded brands and events. One such happening is the Lāna‘i Documentary Film Festival (LDFF), which will take place on the island in February 2016. LDFF, which seeks to ignite conversations about urgent global issues, is unlike a standard film festival in that it plans to build an audience for its short and feature-length films before the festival—and distribution deals will be secured in advance.
Similarly, the forthcoming Lāna‘i Food and Wine Festival will showcase Lāna‘i’s innovations in farm-to-table dining and wine, with the world’s top chefs, sommeliers, and wine houses in attendance. “Being around people who care about the land, and the property, and the environment,” Nobu executive chef Sean Mell says in a Love Lanai video, “is an eye-opener.”
Love Lanai works in partnership with Pūlama Lāna‘i, the managing operation of the island, which Ellison established to look after the infrastructure of the island’s development and community and to support efforts to preserve the island’s culture. Together, Love Lanai and Pūlama Lāna‘i cultivate ideas of innovation that invite, engage, and inspire others to journey on the same path.
After all, says Tyler Vega Pascua, who was filmed for Love Lanai describing her recent achievement of becoming Lāna‘i’s first-ever student to be awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship Award, “Anything is possible, and if you work hard enough, you can get to your dreams and goals.”
For more information on Love Lanai, visit lovelanai.com.