If you’re Instagram savvy, search out the hashtag #kokuaforrestaurants and you’ll find a video of chef Roy Yamaguchi singing out an enthusiastic rendition of the Mana‘o Company song “A-L-O-H-A.”
It was filmed earlier this week with Yamaguchi’s wife, Denise, behind the camera in a lighthearted approach to a serious mission: raising $250,000 to support restaurant and bar employees left jobless by the new coronavirus pandemic.
“We must have filmed that thing at least 15 times,” the chef said. “I couldn’t remember the words and kept messing up. I look silly, but I did it ‘cause I know how much some of our employees and other restaurant workers are suffering.”
The couple announced the launch of the Kokua Restaurant Workers’ Fund on Friday, under the umbrella of the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival, of which they are principal organizers.
The aim is to provide laid-off workers with Visa cards worth $250 to use on meals at local restaurants.
Seed money of $68,500 from corporate sponsors got the campaign started, Denise Yamaguchi said.
Donate through the festival’s website, HawaiiFoodandWineFestival.com.
To donate with panache, though, accept the “Aloha Challenge” and post a video of yourself on social media lip-syncing the Mana‘o Company song, with its lyrics that seem so appropriate to these times: “We’re on a mission, trying to find a way … ” Then send your followers to the festival site to “spread a little aloha.”
Through this online crowdfunding, the campaign hopes to draw on the social-media fandom of the many chefs and other food-industry celebrities who have appeared at the annual festival, urging them to post a video and pass the challenge on.
Setting the tone is a video made in 2014, available on the website, which shows a host of chefs, among them Nobu Matsuhisa, Ming Tsai and Hubert Keller, lip-syncing the song.
“If we can do something to lift people’s spirits during this time as well as raise money, that’s great,” Denise Yamaguchi said.
Laid-off workers may apply for aid beginning May 12.