How to Cook in The Spirit of Pono

According to Hawaiian native—and chef of LA's Pono Burger—Makani Carzino.

May 22, 2018 ● 1 min read

By Cassandra Landry | Illustrations by Daniel Krall 


Brought to you in partnership with Pacific Sales. 

When Makani Carzino—the chef-owner of beloved beachy hide-out Pono Burger—was 20 years old, she brought home a giant pork butt and banged it down on the counter in front of her (now very confused) mother. Makani was a vegetarian, and had been for awhile.

“I need you to teach me how to cook that,” she said. “I have an audition out on a yacht, and I need to be able to prepare something more than a vegetarian menu."

Mother and daughter got to work, and the crash course was a success: for the next two years, she cooked for 10 passengers and five crewmembers in a floating kitchen. She saved her money for culinary school in the Bay Area, and just like that, she had found her calling.

Prior to the gig, Carzino worked in health food stores, cranking out smoothies and sandwiches and deli fare. “That was why I wasn't taking anything from animals,” she explains. “I realized what was happening in the industry and it was ungodly to me. I didn't want to be a part of that.”

It wasn't until she moved to San Francisco and met ranchers and farmers doing things in a humane, holistic way that she found her omnivore’s spirit. “There were some really good families walking the walk in pono fashion,” she says. “I could definitely support them.”

She grins, and adds of post-yacht life, “And I had a deeper appreciation for a kitchen that wasn't moving.”

Below, an exploration of pono, the guiding life force in all the chef does. For more, catch Chef Carzino in a new video dedicated to her singular passion fruit mousse