Kula and My Maui Surf Retreat

My Maui Adventure (After 30 Years Of Working On My Birthday… I'm Off To Surf & To Celebrate Me!)


After 30 years of hardworking summertime birthdays - I am taking a solo journey to clear my mind and feed my belly... 

There was a point not too long ago when I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. Was I going to run for office? Open another restaurant? Have kids? As my birthday neared these questions seemed more urgent than ever and so off I went on my Maui adventure.
Lightly Salted carried a women’s surf brand called Carve who were offering me the chance to attend a women’s surf retreat in Maui and it was affordable. My husband agreed it would be a great experience and I was definitely ready for some good surf and an adventure as large as my dreams.

My retreat group was made of women of all ages, from 21 to late sixties and I found myself smack-dab in the middle. Some were adept surfers and some were just learning but we were quite a strong, brave, and connected crew. 

It was nice to be pushed and guided to surf. It was divine to be with supportive group of women, in beautiful place with amazing energy. It led me to ask many questions, not the least of which was “Why don’t I live in Hawaii? “

Never one to leave my chef’s hat at home, even on retreat, I found myself savoring the flavors of the food prepared by our retreat chef Peter. He made a chocolate mousse one day and I was enraptured by it. I just couldn’t pinpoint what made it so special. So, Peter taught me to cook it. It was a simple dessert but left me with a lasting memory of the experience of connecting with the person who made it and taught me to do the same. In case you feel like you’re missing out: Aloha mousse is on the menu. (It’s a delectable vegan chocolate mousse made with avocado!)

At the time of the Maui retreat NJ was going through Irene. I honestly began to feel disconnected from it and helpless. My husband, the restaurant and staff, the pets, and everyone else, evacuated. My husband took care of these things, got everyone and everything out, board windows, and Irene didn’t hit New Jersey so badly, thank goodness.

Irene hit me though. I felt strange: I’m sitting there in warm sunshine, surrounded with feminine energy and support, and my husband is going through that. There was a challenge in that feeling, a feeling of wanting to fly home, an inability to do so and a letting go. “I’m here and I can’t go home, so sitting and worrying and not having this experience is not a positive outcome of any of this.” I told myself. 

One of my most amazing memories of the trip was a volcano drive we went on. We drove up to a volcano in middle of night, to see stars. We had gone up in dark, so we had no idea where we really were. All we saw were the dark shadows of the people we were with.  As light dawns, it feels insane but you really don’t know what it’s going to look like from where you are.

We watched the sunrise there, had a cup of coffee and then mountain biked down from there. I felt like I was on another planet, all I saw were craters and rocks. The clouds were below me. I felt like I was on mars.

On another excursion we drove the Hana highway, drove around the other side of Maui through lush green, and walked the waterfalls. It was so diverse, so beautiful and I wondered where else could I be at a volcano at 5 am, the beach midday, at a plantation in the afternoon, a luau for dinner, and do all of that all in one day. 

While those adventures are forever in my heart, I find myself warmed by one simple meditation most of all. On the first day of the retreat, during our meditation circle the focus was on the idea of Kula, or community of the heart. This community of the heart struck me and is ultimately how the idea for Kula café came to be. I found myself ready to create an extended community family, to offer Ohana, and to extend Kula to the place I call home.

So, what does Kula look like in practice? Kula looks like Interfaith Neighbors going into the community to give out hot chocolate and coffee and donuts and pastries in the community 1 night a week. It looks like neighbors extending love to neighbors. 

When I came back from Hawaii, I really began to think about what this would mean for me in practice. I knew we needed this front of house component in Asbury that isn’t addressed by culinary schools or other non-profits. I knew there are people who could be working but don’t have confidence skills and training to do it. Why not expand on the Interfaith Neighbors grant and create a café that trains community members and feeds the community itself.

I set out to hire a chef that staff could resonate with, someone who connects with participants in program to help them succeed. I found a chef who was passionate about mission, someone patient. Kula would focus on front of house training (since there were more of those jobs in the community) Kula would have these people learn to do that skill set (building confidence to speak and connect with others).

I found that hospitality was a thread through anything you do: It’s evident in the bedside manner of a doctor, in the patience of a person who sells you your car, the pleasant manner of the realtor, and the empowering insight of someone selling you shoes.

If you develop that communication skill of engaging with another human being, it’s a skillset that can take you anywhere. It’s a big part of growing the community too. Self-confidence is something that a lot of people in the community may not have as a result of many factors and it is something we can teach. It bridges the gap of community of people who are building up or falling behind. It answers a critical question: How do we bring together rather than push away? Connection and bring together rather than pushing people aside are Kula and I knew we could make it a reality every day.

  As the vision became clearer the name fit more and more: The word Kula (community of the heart) would be a great name for this café, it had depth and great meaning. In practice I knew Kula would be a community working together and the inspiration of my Maui trip became reality in its development. I truly love when you go somewhere and are inspired by something that triggers something else for someone else. This chain reaction is not always big, but it’s always impactful.