Updated: Sep 29
Kiki Aranita is a chef, food writer, fiber artist, sauce entrepreneur, and recipe developer. Joining Chefs for Impact for our inaugural FoodxArt Show Oct. 30th at the Wythe Hotel, Kiki will be displaying her work that intertwines her different identities through the themes of nostalgia (particularly when it comes to the food of Kiki’s hometowns of Honolulu and Hong Kong) and care for the ocean.
As a chef, she specializes in Hawai’i’s fresh fish dishes and low waste cooking, and as a fiber artist, she uses primarily scrap yarn, in a small effort to keep micro-plastics out of our waterways. Kiki spent seven years as co-chef and owner of Poi Dog, a restaurant, food truck, and catering company that served Hawaii’s local food.
For years, her goals involved celebrating the underrepresented cuisines of multicultural origins and collaborating with other chefs. She has continued to cook, through chef residencies at Jose Garces’ Volver, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bok Bar and more. She has collaborated with chefs globally, from Canada to Bahrain to Turkey.
Welcome Kiki to Chefs for Impact!
By Kiki Aranita as told to Chefs for Impact
What does eating sustainably mean to you?
It’s about balance. I’m from Hawai’i, where something like 90% of our food is imported and I grew up on no small amount of canned, non-perishable foods. As an adult, I know this is not how I want to continue eating and I’ve since made a name for myself as a chef who focuses on sustainable sourcing and working with fish that don’t deplete ocean stocks. That said, certain food products instantly transport me home with one bite – I’m not saying we should abandon them, but rather, we should eat more consciously and source more from the producers who are going to better usher our world and supplies into the future.
What does your art symbolize to you? / What do you hope others feel after viewing your artwork?
My work tells the same story as my food. I use 90% discarded or unwanted yarn, collected from my neighbors and mount my pieces on fabric scraps (including bits of silk I’ve saved for 20 years). Fashion and textile industries are great polluters of our oceans – washing them disseminates their microplastics -- and this practice highlights keeping fast fashion and fast yarn out of our waterways.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating?
Nostalgia. And it’s not always rosy. Nostalgia is a tricky thing that paints over pain. I’m constantly revisiting food items that stir up my own nostalgia – packaged candy, SPAM, industrially produced noodles – that simultaneously make me miss my childhood and see its problems. My ancestors worked on Hawai’i’s sugarcane plantations and we have a long, complicated relationship with canned foods that were brought by colonizers and sugar, an industry which overwhelmed Hawai’i’s fertile lands and continues to cause destruction today.
How does art create impact?
It makes us remember the past.
What is your favorite meal.
I’m a professional chef – so basically any meal that someone else makes for me!