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Before he became a king, he cooked for a governor

Shiro Matsuo credits his success to Hawaii Gov. John Burns, who "never grumbled"

By Bob Sigall / Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 9:55 p.m. HST, May 19, 2011

Who's that handsome man with Gov. John Burns? It's none other than the Saimin King, Shiro Matsuo. Shiro learned to cook during World War II.

Shiro said that after Burns was elected in 1962, he asked him to be his personal chef. "Gov. Burns was a very simple man, very humble. He never grumbled. He was not flamboyant. He made me feel important. When I was in the doldrums, he brought me back. I am what I am today because of him."

On the Web:

» Shiro's Saimin

Later, Shiro took over the coffee shop at the Aiea Bowl.

"I needed a signature item," said Shiro, now 92. "I picked saimin. No one was doing it. ‘How can you make saimin into a meal itself?' people asked me."

"It was the only thing I could think of. I changed the name to Shiro's Hula Hula Drive In and Saimin Haven. It was like a cloudburst. From day one, customers kept coming. It never stopped. Even if the economy is bad, customers keep coming." You can find Shiro's in Waimalu, Waipahu and Ewa. They serve more than 250,000 bowls of saimin a year.

Bob Sigall, author of the "Companies We Keep" books, looks through his collection of old photos to tell stories each Friday of Hawaii people, places and companies. Email him at

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