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Chef, Owner of New York Restaurant Indicted for Embezzling $200,000

Chef, Owner of New York Restaurant Indicted for Embezzling $200,000



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The couple recently opened their own restaurant, Innovo Kitchen, in Latham, New York.

A former chef and part-owner of Maestro’s, a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, New York, have each been indicted for multiple charges, including grand larceny, forgery, and falsifying records.

The pair is believed to have embezzled an estimated $200,000 from the establishment over the course of three years.

The chef, 52-year-old John LaPosta, and ex-owner, 55-year-old Tina Kruger — described by The Associated Press as a couple — reportedly began stealing from the restaurant in 2011, shortly after they took over the restaurant’s operations. The theft continued until 2014, when Kruger’s ownership ended.

In court on Wednesday morning, October 14, each received 10 felony counts and pleaded not guilty to all charges. LaPosta and Kruger were subsequently released on $10,000 bonds.

According to the Albany Times Union, LaPosta and Kruger are now the owners of Innovo Kitchen in Latham, New York, which opened earlier this month.

In a statement to the Times, a lawyer for LaPosta said that prosecutors had turned a simple business dispute into a criminal case.


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


Havens in Kihei already a smash

Kehaulani Cerizo

Staff Writer
[email protected]

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato shows one of his smash burgers, which uses a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices. Despite the pandemic’s hardships, the new burger and noodle shop is already a hit after just a month open in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KIHEI — Despite the pandemic forcing many small businesses to close, Maui native Zach Sato took a chance and opened his first venture in north Kihei.

“I guess I just knew I had no other options,” the former Hotel Wailea and Merriman’s chef said this week. “Being unemployed with no benefits with a mortgage and a 1-year-old child just kind of forced me to do something.”

Hawaii economists have said that the food service industry is among the Aloha State’s hardest hit sectors in the pandemic.

Still, Sato decided to launch a burger and noodle shop called Havens that serves local comfort food.

Havens is inspired by and located in the previous spot off Piilani Highway of the now-closed Suda Seafood & Deli, an iconic burger and noodle joint that reigned for more than 50 years during Maui’s golden years of mom-and-pop businesses.

Havens owners Katie-Belle Ely and Zach Sato work the counter at their new burger and noodle shop in North Kihei as Kihei resident Richard Shelby orders. Shelby said the “Deluxe” burger is his favorite because “it’s how burgers should be made” – simply, without a lot of added distractions. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

In just over a month, Havens has grown so popular that Sato and his life and business partner, Katie-Belle Ely, have hired five employees and are looking at expansion options.

Made-to-order original recipes, along with fresh, housemade ingredients, make the smash burgers — such as the “Deluxe,” the “Original” and the “Umami” — a big hit. Smash burgers, a cooking technique of smashing ground beef on a grill to sear in the juices, tend to be tastier and have good texture, Sato said.

Sato adds noodle plates, such as “Fried Noodle” and “Wagyu Chow Fun,” along with “sticks” (skewered meat), temaki and other sides to round out the menu. “Crazy Tots,” hurricane tater tots topped with furikake, will shame typical French fries. And, bones are boiled for three days to perfect his saimin dashi bone broth.

“It’s straight local food — no frills,” Sato said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Havens often sells out by 2 p.m. The takeout shop has been averaging 250 to 300 meals a day, Sato said. Calling ahead is advised.

Evan Tanzer, Havens kitchen manager, assembles a burger earlier this week at the new North Kihei takeout restaurant in the old Suda store location. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“I’ve come about once a week, and sometimes I’m upping it to twice a week,” Kihei resident Richard Shelby said this week. “I have to slow down a bit.”

Ask Sato and Ely a month ago if they knew they’d be this busy, and the two laugh.

“We had no idea,” Ely said. “We have a lot of community support.”

Beyond the burgers, the story behind Havens has also cultivated a strong, local following.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sato found himself without a job and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Havens chef/owner Zach Sato loads green onions into a wok as he prepares a noodle dish this week at his new burger and noodle shop at the former Suda store in North Kihei. — The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

Sato was a chef at Merriman’s for about six years, then served as a chef at Hotel Wailea for four years.

He had a mutual agreement with the hotel to part ways, but then “the pandemic blew everything up.”

With the median annual income in the industry at about $30,000, food service employees likely have limited savings and were not prepared to handle the pandemic’s systemwide shock to the visitor and local dining markets, according to Peter Fuleky, University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization economist.

UHERO data that compiles OpenTable reservations shows that December restaurant activity was down by as much as 61 to 66.5 percent compared to the same time last year.

With an expensive mortgage and a family to support, Sato hustled hard.

He began selling meal kits to friends and family. It took off via word of mouth and social media.

Sato said that though he has a passion for full-service dining and taking care of guests, he knew jobs were limited.

He decided take a risk — the young chef found an investor, got a loan and opened his shop.

“Since it was the Suda’s, had the history, yeah,” he said. “I wanted to vibe off what they’re already doing.”

Sato had planned on being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But the small kitchen couldn’t handle the high demand from lunch and what would be required to store enough food for dinner.

“I took the 8 on the window and cut it in half so it looks like a 3,” Sato said.

Since Dec. 6, Sato and Ely have been at Havens every day it’s been open to ensure the food is consistent. Ely works the front end, helping customers, training staff on the cash register and decorating the store. Separated by a partition, Sato is busy in the kitchen, juggling woks, food prep containers and the grill.

The two are now looking at ways to expand the kitchen and possibly extend hours.

The 2004 King Kekaulike High School graduate worked as a dishwasher his freshman year in high school. In restaurants, he gained some food prep experience and “slid into cooking from that.”

“I never looked back,” he said.

Havens is named after Ely and Sato’s daughter, who turns 2 in February.

“It is our steppingstone to provide bigger and better things for her once things improve,” Sato said.

Asked why the shop has gained traction so quickly, Ely replied that the main ingredient is love.

“He loves to eat this kind of food,” she said. “So now he’s cooking it with a lot of love.”


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