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Grandfather's Salt comes home to Hawaii


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ninety-seven-year-old Joseph Lau just calls it his salt.

He formulated his seasoning blend “;before the war”; while working as a Waikiki hotel chef.

His granddaughter and grandson-in-law call it their business.

Grandfather's Salt Inc. has been selling Royal Hawaiian Seasoning in Taiwan since a state Department of Agriculture trade mission there in 2007.

However, the secret blend of ingredients, including Hawaiian salt, raw Maui sugar, garlic and peppercorns, has been a favorite of Lau's legion of family and friends for generations—and it is about to enter the Hawaii retail market.

A recent large order by a Taiwanese company made it possible for Kathy and Mark Kilby, the aforementioned grandkids, to purchase machinery to automate their McCully salt mine, er, production facility—and speed up production to meet demand.

The filler, capper and labeler will greatly speed up the process—fortuitous, as “;we just got picked up by Star Market and Don Quijote,”; said Mark. About 10 family members work in the business.

Royal Hawaiian Seasoning and its sibling Hawaiian salt and alaea salt products could gain further distribution during the Made in Hawaii Festival Aug. 21-23, at which Grandfather's Salt will be an exhibitor.

Via the company Web site, the products range from $5.99 for Hawaiian salt and $7.99 for eight ounces of “;Grandfather's Original Recipe”; seasoning, up to $85 for a case of eight 16-ounce bags of the seasoning and $105 for a case of eight 24-ounce bags of alaea salt.

At the festival the company probably will offer samples of steak and chicken cooked with the seasonings and might “;drag”; grandfather down there for a while to meet folks, Mark said.

When Lau retired in 1977, he really intended to retire.

“;Working all my life as a cook, I don't want to do any more cooking,”; he said yesterday.

But he did, right?

“;Yeah, well, off and on,”; he chuckled.

“;I would cater, make parties and all that. I used to cater for luaus”; and political fundraisers, using his seasoning along the way and making batches of the blend for whoever would ask.

The seasoning, packaged as favors for Mark and Kathy's wedding in Hawaii, was so highly favored by Mark's family, it continually orders more for its Napa Valley winery guests, said Aileen Anjo, Lau's daughter, Kathy's mother and 6-year-old Karissa's proud grandmother.

Enjoying retirement at his Makaha home, “;I sit around and watch TV. That's all I do,”; Lau said.

Anjo wishes that were more true.

“;I have to watch him. He's constantly climbing up a stepladder, going up on the roof or climbing the big mango tree,”; she said.

Lau is a former speedster who used to race a speedboat in Keehi Lagoon and cars on the Kahuku drag strip where he broke the 100-mph mark. He recently started using a walker, Kilby said, but one thing has not changed.

“;I still make salt for whoever needs it,”; chuckled Lau.