Tutu’s Kitchen at Highway Inn

Project Description

Tūtū’s Kitchen at Highway Inn

communications, project development and management, event coordination | Highway Inn, 2019


In Hawaiian, tūtū means “grandparent” or beloved elder. Tūtū’s Kitchen by Highway Inn shares the food and stories passed down by generations of locals. This exciting program features a rotation of Tūtūs — grandmothers and grandfathers, yes, but also aunties, uncles and anyone who serves as a keeper of a family’s food traditions — who will share mo‘olelo (stories) and a recipe with the Highway Inn ‘ohana. Each dish will be served for a month at Highway Inn Kaka‘ako.

Third-generation Highway Inn owner Monica Toguchi Ryan was inspired by New York City’s Enoteca Maria, an Italian restaurant where each night a different nonna (Italian for grandmother) serves cuisine from her own country. The restaurant has served dishes hailing from Sri Lanka, the Phillipines, Armenia and Russia, alongside its own classic Italian fare. “Hawai‘i is a natural place for something like this!” Monica thought. “Here, there’s so much food that’s associated with comfort and home, things that your grandparents, or your parents, or your aunty or uncle is known for making. But we’re starting to lose those recipes. The idea behind Tūtū’s Kitchen is to bring in the people who make these favorite dishes and let them share not just the food, but also their stories—where the recipe comes from, how they learned to cook it, how they ended up being that person in the family that keeps these family food traditions alive.” The program is intended to help preserve our local family food traditions.

Tūtū’s Kitchen dishes will be available on Tūtū Tuesdays and Thursdays, and featured at a quarterly Sunday night dinner. A portion of proceeds from Tūtū’s Kitchen Night and Tūtū Tuesdays and Thursdays will be donated to a non-profit organization. For 2019, the designated non-profit is Les Dames d’Escoffier, Hawai‘i Chapter, an organization dedicated to supporting women in the culinary fields and educating the community about food. Its local membership is comprised of more than 80 members in careers ranging from restaurants to farmers, food production to event organizers, educators to writers and publicists.

*Tūtū’s Kitchen is currently on hiatus, due to COVID-19.

2019 Tutu’s Kitchen participants (top-bottom; left-right): Ku‘uipo Lorenzo/Popo’s Slumgallion; Kathi Saks/Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage; Lori Wong/Tempura Deep-Fried Twinkie; Kristin Jackson/Buttermilk “Cat Head” Biscuits with Sausage Gravy; Traci Rosado Fernandez/Grandpa Rosado’s Puerto Rican Chicken Stew; Dianne Vicheinrut/Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Cream; Clare Bobo/Grandma Ann’s Pierogi; Jenn Marr/Chicken Cacciatore, Catranbone Family Style; Leimomi Lum/Bacalao & ‘Ulu Salad


Client: Highway Inn
Website: myhighwayinn.com/tutus-kitchen

Project development and coordination, event planning, media outreach, photography


  • Assisted in the development of the project, helping to plan how the program works and write up the participant terms and agreements
  • Recruit participants and serve as liaison between participants and kitchen staff; schedule kitchen training and promo shoots
  • Plan and execute Sunday Dinner events, including menu planning, logistics and promotions
  • Write and design all communications and collateral materials, including participant bios, website copy, menus and programs
  • Coordinate with video crew to document each Sunday Dinner, including participant interviews
  • Photograph participants and their dishes, including action shots, as well as Sunday Dinner event photography

Everything from conceptualizing the program, recruiting participants and helping the kitchen secure ingredients, to planning, promoting and executing the Sunday Dinner events.