Balance in a Bowl
Scroll to Continue
Today, Brandon Baptiste is back home in Kapaa, Kauai. He opens up the Winnebago window of Wailua Shave Ice to start the business day. This spot, under the warm sun and bright blue skies of eastern Kauai, is about as far away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan as it gets. But Baptiste moved home for a reason. He ended his pursuit of super-chef stardom to take care of his family in Kauai – and he hasn’t looked back since.
Now Baptiste applies the skills and attention to detail he learned as a chef to shave ice – the local version of a snow cone. With fresh, natural flavors and innovative, elevated recipes, he’s reinvented what shave ice can be – and the world has taken notice. Lines form early here in Kapaa because people are passionate about his shave ice. Baptiste has even expanded, opening successful Wailua Shave Ice shops in San Diego and Portland. Not bad for a local boy whose path to success was both unexpected and inevitable.
“Just being home, it reminds you of the important things in life.”
I grew up in Kapaa, where our shave ice stand is. Our logo is the “Sleeping Giant,” the mountain range right behind our house. It's a very small town, low key, very connected, very loving, a very nurturing place, where people take care of each other. And everybody's just down to help each other.
What was it like growing up on Kauai?
One of my first memories is of Hawaiian Blizzard, Uncle Aaron’s shop. Uncle Aaron was the shave ice guy growing up and he was just always this super nice guy that you always went to. He’d tell you to pick some colors. I was pretty boring – blue and yellow. You’d get your shave ice, you'd sit with your family and your friends, and just have a good time. Food memory is probably one of the strongest memories in the brain and we just want to be a part of people's lives that way, something that will last with them for the rest their lives.
What were some of your early memories of eating shave ice?
“Hawaii is an amazing place. And all it is, is this combination of all these different cultures that came together and out of necessity, had to assimilate.”
Shave ice comes from the plantations. All Hawaii food is like a melding of cultures. On the weekends, on Sunday, on their church day, they would get together and shave a big block of ice and pour fruit juice over it, taking ideas from the countries they came from, and just use whatever they had. They had fruit juice. They had sweetened condensed milk. They had mochi. So, all these things that we see as Hawaii shave ice is just a reiteration of what they were doing back then. And we're trying to, in some ways, bring it back to that.
Where did shave ice originate from?
Well, when they first started making shave ice, everything was fresh fruits. Everything was made that way, because it's what they had. And now, we try to do that. Get away from the syrups. Get away from the high fructose, the food colorings. On Kauai, we have some of the best produce, some of the best ingredients that I've seen. We wouldn't get the same pineapples even in Per Se in New York. Our mangoes are still better, our guava is still better, our quality is still better. So we take that and celebrate those things. Take the heart of what it was and bring it forward again.
What makes your shave ice different?
Hawaii is an amazing place. And all it is, is this combination of all these different cultures that came together and out of necessity, had to assimilate. All the amazing things they had in their culture, they brought it together and mashed it together with these other cultures… Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese... and we come up with things that are only unique to Hawaii. Things that you don't find in even their original countries because they've had to meld together. And that's quintessentially, what Hawaii is. I mean, America is the melting pot, but I definitely think Hawaii is even more so that personification of diversity.
What makes shave ice unique to Hawai‘i or uniquely local?
It’s a peaceful morning at Kahana Bay on Oahu’s Windward side. There isn’t a single soul on the sand – a far cry from the bright lights and buzz of Waikiki. The waves here are legendary. Once, long ago, a Kahana Bay Chief challenged the Goddess Hiiaka – sister of Pele, the Goddess of fire – to a surfing competition in these waters. It did not go well for the Chief…More
Anela Evans sings a melodic oli (chant) atop a cliff overlooking Puu Pehe (known as Sweetheart Rock), on Lanai’s south shore. She’s just come from her day job as a cultural liaison at the Four Seasons Lanai, just a short hike from here. As she sings over this dramatic vista, she still wears her formal work suit. It’s a contrast that not only informs who she is, but the contradictions in Lanai itself…More
The subway rumbles under Columbus Circle in New York City. Inside the towering Time Warner Center is Per Se by Chef Thomas Keller, one of the best restaurants in New York. This is where Brandon Baptiste cut his teeth, working tirelessly 12-16 hours a day, perfecting his culinary skills, and learning from the very best, to be the very best…More
Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole performs a hula and oli (chant) in the streets of downtown Hilo. Her voice is pure. Her movements, powerful. In an increasingly modern world, this is how she connects to the Island of Hawaii. To the snowcapped mountains of Maunakea. To the rolling, green hills of Waimea. To the primordial, black lava rock of Kilauea…More
It’s 2 a.m. on Oahu’s breathtaking, Waianae coast. At this hour, the connection between the physical and the spiritual world intermingles. In the shore break, Keone Nunes is waking up his tools for Kahekili, the god of tattooing. He does a prayer and dips his tattooing tools into the water to make them aware they’ll be doing sacred work today. It's a fairly simple ceremony, but it's embedded in thousands of years of culture…More
Chef Sheldon Simeon and Brandon Lee stand in a pasture of happy pigs in lush Honokaa, north of Hilo on the Island of Hawaii. Tonight, they’ll be cooking for a big, local-style potluck at Sheldon’s father’s house. But before the dishes hit the table, the guys wanted to take a visit to the source – the farm…More
The sun rises over Halawa Valley, Molokai. Greg Solatorio blows the pu, or conch shell. At the other end of the lush valley, Greg’s father, Anakala Pilipo Solatorio, blows his pu back. There is no cell phone connection here. This is how father and son communicate over distances. The conch shell echoes across this beautiful, verdant valley. This could be today or it could 200 years ago…More
Dustin Tester stands in the warm waters of Olowalu Beach giving a wide-eyed 10-year old her first surfing lesson. Dustin grew up on the beaches of Lahaina. Her grandfather helped build the A-Frame cabins just offshore – the same cabins she runs her Maui Surfer Girls surf camp out of today. She has an infectious energy. That energy helped her survive one of the most dangerous waves in the world…More
The stars shine bright above Maui. Kala Tanaka sits on the sand overlooking the ocean on the west side. Kala is a voyager and an educator at Hui o Waa Kaulua, Maui’s Voyaging Society. When she stays on land for too long, she begins to long for the sea. But it hasn’t always been that way…More
The sun is about to break over the horizon at tranquil Lydgate Beach, just south of the iconic Wailua River on Kauai’s east side. Leinaala Jardin has a long day ahead of her. Jardin is a kumu hula (hula teacher). She’s here with her halau (hula school), Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinaala, for a hiuwai, a traditional water blessing. Tonight, they’ll be performing in front of 1,000 people to celebrate her halau’s 21st anniversary…More
Atlantis Submarines offers a one-of-a-kind underwater experience off the shorelines of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, giving guests a close-up view of an array of marine life, exotic tropical reefs and numerous sunken vessels.
Our four Kauai built boats: Leila, Holo Holo, and Adventurer II & III; will get you to the fun faster, so you have more time to snorkel, sightsee, relax and enjoy the pristine waters and spectacular cliffs of the Napali Coast & Niihau. Reserve Your Kauai Tour today at 1-800-848-6130.
Kipu Ranch Adventures, located on the lush island of Kauai, is proud to be one of the top eco-tours in Hawaii. We enable visitors and residents alike to discover the rich history, landscape and legends that make Kauai activities unique. Come out and join us for a tropical 4x4 off road adventure.
Kualoa is 4,000 acres of stunning tropical beauty offering a Jurassic Valley Zipline, ATVs, Raptor Tours, Boat tours, Hollywood Movie Site Tours, Food Tours as well as Horseback. If you've seen Jurassic World, you've seen Kualoa!
Kauai Hiking Tours offers day hikes, backpacking trips and driving tours on Kauai Island. Our local guides are passionate about sharing their knowledge with aloha. We welcome adventurers of all ages & ability levels - several options of beginner, intermediate, and advanced tours are available.
Cruise the reefs in style on Kona's largest custom dive charter. Dance with mantas. Dive or snorkel with Kona's amazing marine life. Experience the mystery and magic of black water. Learn to dive with our awesome crew. Konahonudivers.com Receive $15 off by booking online and using code gohawaii
Maui Nei connects history and Hawaiian culture in guided walking adventures and arts immersion programs. Choose from three tour offerings or customized interactive programs for your group. Journey back in time with Hawaiian storytellers to live the aloha in an authentic cultural tour experience.
Join And You Creations on our Nature and You tour! Experienced guides will lead you through the Manoa Valley Rainforest to a breathtaking 150-foot waterfall. Our tour includes transportation from Waikiki and a delicious and healthy lunch. The trail is suitable for all ages and experience levels.