KAZUKO IGE / 1921-2007
Mom’s okazuya set family’s culinary legacy
STAR-BULLETIN / DECEMBER 2002
Ron, left, Kazuko, Glenn and Alvin Ige pose for a picture during a weekly family gathering in Aiea. Of the five Ige children, four are in the catering business.
When Kazuko Ige enlisted her five children to help prepare food for her Kalihi okazuya, little did any of them know it was a family food dynasty in the making.
She had more than 25 years in the food business when her husband bought Yasu's Food Shop on School Street for her in 1969. There was lots of work for the younger generation when she expanded into a lunch wagon and catering service, and, as it turned out, it was a perfect experience for their future.
Ige's children now own three catering businesses and three restaurants, and Kazuko Ige made routine inspections of their kitchens long after she retired. Her Friday evening routine was to eat dinner and listen to the music at son Ronald Ige's 19th Puka Restaurant above Pearlridge Shopping Center.
Ige, 86, died Oct. 30.
"We are all cooking her food," said Alvin Ige. "Shoyu pork, nishime and andagi were her regulars." He owns and cooks at Masa's Cafeteria and, with his sister Debbie, Ige's Catering Service in Mapunapuna.
"We inherited her trait of a strong work ethic," he said. "I was the youngest and got yelled at the most. It was about the family reputation, about making the food taste good."
When the Okinawa Festival was started years ago, she made the andagi, and her recipe is still used at the annual event, he said.
The close-knit family will continue their tradition of gathering Thursday nights, with dinner an array of everyone's cooking, said Ronald Ige, who also operates Ige's Restaurant in Aiea and Ige's Lunchwagon and Catering.
"We talk about how hard it is to start up a business. We were lucky as kids to have her help get us going," he said.
In the beginning, the cooking was done in a converted garage at her Aiea home. But in 1989 the state Department of Health shut it down. "Getting evicted was the best thing for us -- then we had to open up our own kitchens," Ronald Ige said. "Before we knew it, we were taking over."
His brother Glenn owns Ige's Halawa Restaurant and Catering. Their sister Charlene Nekomoto became a public school teacher and librarian.
Kazuko Ige was active for years as a volunteer with Jikoen Buddhist Temple.
She was born in Waiau.
She is survived by sons Glenn K., Ronald S. and Alvin M.; daughters Charlene Ige Nekomoto and Debbie R. Ige; brother James T. Afuso; sisters Elsie N. Motoyama and Mary M. Murakawa; and eight grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 5 p.m. Monday at Hosoi Garden Mortuary. Friends may call after 4 p.m. The family requests casual attire.