April 17, 2014. Maundy Thursday. A good day to stop by for the first time at Seed Restaurant in Kaimuki on the way to service at the Mystical Rose Oratory, Chaminade University. On this day when the ritual of foot-washing is a reminder of Christ’s call to serve others as he did, having a meal at Seed was to see that call answered in the cheerful bustle of good food prepared with imagination and a commitment that goes beyond mere business, to nourish both body and spirit.
The restaurant’s website promises: “We serve with joy because we’re grateful.”
And so they do. There was none of the robotic enthusiasm too often exhibited in the restaurant business by servers coached in establishing an overly hearty familiarity with the customer, but unschooled in realizing when they are being intrusive. Instead we experienced the kind of warmth and hospitality that perhaps people who have known pain and survived are particularly well-equipped to provide. And the staff at Seed are indeed survivors: of homelessness, human trafficking, domestic abuse and other challenges.
The restaurant is a way of creating new opportunities and a chance to rebuild from the ground up, says Jordan Seng, Senior Pastor of Bluewater Mission, a nondenominational church in Palama Settlement that started Seed. Diners are reminded when they pick up the menu to browse its tempting range of healthy, quality options, that this is “food on a mission.” Open the menu and one gets a little push in the direction of contributing to the mission in the form of a note below “Big Salads” that says:
“We know times can get tough, so if you need a free meal or a price break, mention it to your server. We’re happy to help. Or if you’d like to pay a little extra this time to help us provide for someone later, please feel free.”
This Maundy Thursday, it was good once again to remember, to celebrate, to believe. And to be surrounded by others who do, in a small sweet restaurant in an old farming town where ostriches once roamed and carnations bloomed. A business that describes itself as “an expression of justice” and serves more than just a delicious meal is truly worth visiting. And re-visiting.
Seed Restaurant is open for breakfast Wednesday through Saturday from 8 – 11.30 a.m. and for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 – 9p.m. They are closed this Easter Sunday.