Kalani’s dining lanai and kitchen have long been described as the “heart” of Kalani. As many as two hundred-fifty hungry guests, local residents, staff and volunteers file in line each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mealtime is announced by the sound of three distinct tones on the conch shell that can be heard across the campus. This daily tradition reminds us of the rich cultural heritage we preserve on the mystical Hawaiian land where Kalani now resides.
The hardworking, fun-loving kitchen crew meticulously and conscientiously prepares and serves three fresh, wholesome meals each day, and approximately 150,000 meals each year, all while chatting, chopping, and dancing to music of choice. Each meal is prepared with the freshest, most organic ingredients possible, along with aloha and love for our ‘ohana or extended family.
Day in and day out, Kalani’s kitchen crew members, affectionately nicknamed “hoozies,” handcraft delicious dishes, all while catering to a diverse population of eaters including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and omnivores alike. Because the kitchen crew is composed mostly of volunteers on two and three month stints, Kalani has assembled a dream team of chefs and managers to keep this operation, Kalani’s largest, running smoothly.
Sami Ross, the Excel-erator
Sami Ross can be found pitching in anytime help is needed in the bustling Kalani kitchen, whether on the dishwashing station (AKA Auntie Hobart), front of house, Hale Aloha, or even the campground, searching for errant hoozies. With her tenacity and determination, she has played a key role in adding to Hale Aloha’s baking and overall expansion. Sami also has the well-honed ability to put any and all information into a spreadsheet, making her a wizard of organization and logistics. She manages and leads team meetings with a smile, keeps track of a multitude of schedules and requests, and ensures that her kitchen team is happy and healthy.
Dana Butler, the Organic Oracle
No longer satisfied by a life driven by ambition, material success, and outside expectation, Dana Butler made the unlikely decision to become the kitchen manager at Kalani. She credits this decision as one of the best she’s ever made in her life, asserting that the benefits within this space of community, non-judgment, and self-acceptance are worth more than all the money and prestige in the world. Dana takes pride in shepherding Kalani’s movement toward purchasing more locally grown produce and grass-fed beef and supporting local farmers and products. Dana also feels rewarded when she hears that the environment in the kitchen is nurturing, supportive, and fun.
Kenny Drotar, the Meal Manifestor
Kenny Drotar has been cooking his heart out for over twelve years in cities including Detroit, New Orleans, and New York. In contrast with the traditional kitchens he has experienced in the past, Kenny keeps the Kalani kitchen atmosphere light and fun with his love of pop music, high-energy, and humorous outlook. He is passionate about sourcing local, sustainable ingredients, and contributing to expanding the gardens at Kalani. Kenny keeps it fresh by learning to prepare new cuisines while transforming the most unlikely combination of ingredients into something tasty and surprising.
Charles Woods the Salad Ninja
A volunteer turned Kalani resident for over eighteen years, Charles keeps the kitchen running smoothly, while balancing hundreds of van runs for Kalani. He can be found quietly and carefully preparing daily staple items such as salads, dips, and dressings that compliment the bounty of fresh ingredients and produce. Charles is always willing to try something new and accommodate the team’s changing menus and flavor profiles. His presence in the kitchen has become a steady constant on the ever-changing crew.
Lilly Dietz the Yum Yum Yogi
Hailing from a big Italian family in New York, Lilly Dietz knows what it takes to cook for large groups of people - all with a hearty serving of aloha. Often overheard saying “this is going to be the best day ever!,” Lilly is known for her signature positive outlook, smile, and friendly energy. Having completed her training on-the-job, Lilly has grown to become one of Kalani’s most skilled shift leaders. A globetrotting yogini, Lilly has taken cooking classes in both India and Thailand, blessing all of her food with the sacred sound of “Om.”
Mark Ceranski the Dessert Dominator
Another Kalani jetsetter, Mark Ceranski spent many years as a chef cooking for high-end clients along with volunteer organizations both domestic and abroad. Now, Mark loves being at Kalani as our resident baker and dessert-maker extraordinaire, spoiling Kalani diners with his famous sourdough, rosemary focaccia, lillikoi cheesecake, fresh berry tart, and anything with chocolate ganache (to name a few). Mark is currently working on his first book, Pot Boiler in the Kitchen, a firsthand account of his adventures with royalty, dictators, and despots.
Ryan Turner the Expediter of Aloha
Prior to arriving at Kalani, Ryan Turner was the restaurant front-of-house manager at a Forbes’ top-ten rated fly-fishing lodge. In nearly two years at Kalani, Ryan has formulated many of our addictive cookie recipes, including the popular vegan varieties such as chocolate chip, Mexican chocolate, peanut butter, and Kona coffee, along with other products carried at Hale Aloha. Ryan also contributed a year of service arranging flowers for the property. A man of many talents, Ryan has become a skilled aerialist and ecstatic dancer and boasts a great letter of recommendation from Henry Winkler aka “The Fonz.”
Mitch Boehlinger the Banjo Griddler
Another man of many talents, Mitch Bohlinger is a former glass-blower from Wisconsin. He can not only cook a mean “almond joy” pancake or perfectly sear a filet of the fresh catch, but can also pick up any string instrument and play a song. Passionate about learning anything new, Mitch has an uncanny ability to try something once and remember each, step-by-step detail about how it is done. Mitch is abundantly generous, sharing his special, cinnamon flavored cold-press coffee with any takers. Mitch is passionate about cooking and loves the idea that people he taught to play instruments and cook are out there in the world making music and food.
Mariana Bergtold the Vegan Pirate Queen
Having healed herself from Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma through macrobiotics, Mariana Bergtold is a living example of the healing and restorative power of healthy, seasonal, locally sourced food. The former owner of not one, but two successful vegan, kosher, organic, sugar-free restaurants, Mariana treats plant and meat-eaters alike to her rich, I-can’t-believe-it’s-dairy-free dishes like wild mushroom and root vegetable phyllo tartes and creamy, delectable soups. Mariana continuously challenges herself by learning new cuisines and inspiring everyone to elevate the quality of plant-based dishes for our discerning Kalani diners.
Ted Leake the Barbecue Chef Bayou
Ted Leake’s signature Southern accent, friendly demeanor, and soulful, retro music selections permeate the kitchen whenever he cooks. A loving father of three, Ted makes everyone feel welcome and appreciated in the kitchen, often giving a hoozie or two the opportunity to create a dish with their moniker attached. He is known for his rich, French culinary trained palette of soups, sauces, and perfectly cooked meats, layered with tons of flavors that have diners returning for seconds. With limited resources but a lot of talent, Ted traveled to fifty countries and survived twenty-five years as a business owner in the competitive catering industry before coming to Kalani.
Sarah Cole the Earth Mama
If you hear the sweet sounds of reggae music echoing through the dining lanai, it is likely that Sarah Cole is on the chef’s line. Another of our well-traveled leaders, Sarah loves cooking holistic, sustainable, non-GMO, organic ingredients while sending good vibrations to the food and to all who consume it. Kalani regulars rave about her flavorful Indian specialties, including divinely seasoned basmati rice and lentil dal, along with spicy onion relish and yogurt raita. Sarah is devoted to homeopathic healing through diet and spiritual connection to the earth.