Operator, staff of Nani Mau Gardens, Coconut Grill to serve 500 free meals to those in need

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald The first 500 people in line Saturday at Nani Mau Gardens will receive a free, hot meal.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Mark Mattos, left, and a team from Coconut Grill will collaborate with Nani Mau Gardens to give 500 free meals to the first 500 people in line Saturday.

The operator of Coconut Grill and Nani Mau Gardens will offer free, hot meals to the community Saturday.

Chef Mark Mattos is providing 500 meals to the first 500 people in line beginning at 11 a.m. at Nani Mau Gardens.

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“The restaurants have been closed since the beginning of the stay-at-home order,” Mattos said. “We realized it’s time to give something back.”

Mattos decided to close Coconut Grill and Nani Mau Gardens after Gov. David Ige passed the first stay-at-home order beginning March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Mattos has worked to renovate the restaurants and implement new ideas to begin offering takeout options.

Because of the closures, many of his employees were furloughed. Mattos said he has heard story after story about people not receiving unemployment benefits and finding it difficult to buy food.

“The hope is to have people who really need this in line for food,” Mattos said. “We want to give people something great to take home to eat together.”

The line will start in the parking lot of Nani Mau Gardens and will be a drive-through to help keep people safe and socially distanced in their cars. Everyone must be present to receive a meal, since there is a limited amount.

“There won’t be anyone judging or any harsh rules,” Mattos said. “Anyone who gets in line probably needs it, and we want to help.”

Mattos collaborated with a team to put together a well-rounded meal that has elements from Coconut Grill and Nani Mau Gardens. Staff from both businesses will serve people a good, healthy portion of shoyu chicken, pork with gravy, vegetables and rice.

“We wanted to give people something really nice to eat, since they will be taking the time to drive out to us,” Mattos said.

Mattos has thought about continuing to offer free meals on the weekends, but is waiting to see what the response will be.

“Nothing is set in stone,” he said. “I want to see what the needs are in the community and go from there.”

After a long month away from his restaurants, Mattos is ready to give something back to anyone who might be struggling during this time.

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“We want to make an impact and do our part to help the community,” Mattos said. “This is a simple idea meant to bless people right now.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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