Addison Bulosan has experience in multiple professions, but while food has always been an interest, he never saw himself in the culinary industry until very recently. Born on Kauai, he left for the Pacific Northwest to study audio production and sound engineering, his first passion. But a later bought with migraines led to an interest in medicine, and he trained to become a chiropractor in San Francisco.
By his own admission, he is a "foodie but no food expert," but now Bulosan can also add food tour operator to his resume, after taking over Tasting Kauai from its founders in July.
Bulosan returned to Kauai in 2014 with a desire to bring his chiropractic skills back to the island. With a deep interest in food and sustainable living, he went on Tasting Kauai tours and got to know original owners Marta and Daniel Lane, who moved back to the mainland this year and were looking for someone to take over the business they had built.
"When Marta and [Tasting Kauai] first approached me about it, I said I like to cook and I like food, but I'm no expert," Bulosan said about his initial doubts. "But Marta told me: 'Addison, you have the heart. You love food, you love taking care of people. This will be a journey, but it will come natural for you.'"
So Bulosan made the leap. The Lanes, who started offering food tours on Kauai in 2012, left him a business he could have left running as is and continued to be successful, he said, but he does have a vision for future growth. For now, he plans to augment the company's focus on promoting chefs and providers that are focused on sustainable production, local ingredients and creative execution. He has worked to reach out to Kauai's growing food truck community, and is planning a new tour.
"Some 95% of our food is imported here on the island, and we saw with the recent hurricane that came through what a problem that can be when shipping lanes or harbors are closed even temporarily," Bulosan said. "One of our goals is to promote more of a sustainable food culture based on local products and ingredients so we're not so reliant on outside goods."
Currently, Tasting Kaui offers three regionally based tours taking guests to specialty food stores, famous local restaurants and food trucks all for $99 per person. The tours are run as a car caravan, with participants meeting the guide at the first stop in their own vehicle, and then drive themselves from stop to stop following Tasting Kauai staff. There is one tour for the North Shore on Tuesdays, one for South Shore on Wednesdays and an East Side tour on Thursdays.
"On our food tours we do six tastings and most guests say it's way too much food or the exact right amount," Bulosan said. "There are multiple generations of Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, German immigrants here, and there is a wide range of food on the island. It's not just Hawaiian or just one type of food."
In October Bulosan plans to launch the first new tour since he took the reins, a West Side tour focused on the historic plantation town of Hanepepe. The tour visits some of the restaurants and stands on the main drag that have been open for generations, including a Japanese cafe serving locally caught fish, a fresh taro chip maker, and a lesson on traditional salt harvesting topped with a curated meal highlighting the various uses of the salt.
"I'm really excited about the new Hanepepe tour because I think it's unique and combine history and culture in a super interesting way," Bulosan said. "In general, the highlight of all our tours is the chefs we partner with who will chat with the guests, but may not normally come out to greet diners. You get to sit down with the chefs and really pick their brains."
In November he hopes to add a food truck-focused tour to the Tasting Kauai lineup as well.
"We launched a food truck challenge in August, and we are hoping to do more with events like that," Bulosan said. "The food scene in Kauai is definitely coming up, with chefs from all over world either returning here or deciding to live here. There is some great fresh talent that is really mixing it up, especially in the food truck scene."
Moving forward, Bulosan said he has gotten some feedback that visitors would like tours offered on weekends and he is looking to expand the schedule to offer more options.
"It's the best combination," Bulosan said. "You're in paradise, eating something new and interesting, and learning about the culture and history all at the same time."