Photo and story by Pam Woolway
Behind the humble facade of a Kekaha sandwich shop, a French-trained chef and Internationally recognized a capella performer serves up generous local kine grinds, and a bit more.
Bonnie McKibben moved to Kaua`i two years ago with, husband Mark, to open Auntie B’s Café in Waimea Canyon Plaza.
When she’s not divining homemade soups from scratch, whipping up her now famous malasadas or laughing with the after-school crowd over ice cream, she’s on O’ahu directing a Sweet Adeline 37-woman chorus.
The Sweet Adelines International is an organization of women promoting barbershop style harmony through performance and education. McKibben was invited to coach the Honolulu group within two months of arriving in the Islands. Every other week she’s in O`ahu coaching the chorus, and even more recently, has formed a quartet, “Aloha Spirit.”
“We were together only four months when we competed in a regional competition and took second place,” she said, barely concealing surprise and pride. This month they’ll compete regionally again in Pasadena, Calif. McKibben opened her café November 2012 and has been expanding her menu ever since. While sandwiches are the biggest seller, one burger’s popularity is on the rise.
“I weave bacon slices into a solid top like you would the dough for the top of a pie,” she said. “This way the bacon doesn’t fall out.”
While she does fashion the menu to a local palate, her Cordon Bleu training is evident in delicacies like the coleslaw salad with mint vinaigrette or her mango chutney roast turkey sandwich. Homemade chips from purple and garnet sweet potatoes and a fruit salad with pina colada dressing are also evidence of her culinary artistry.
Surprisingly, it’s McKibben’s malasadas at $9 a dozen that bring customers from the greatest distance and calling in advance orders daily. She’s developed a technique that requires freezing the dough right up to the moment before frying, that make this quintessential Kaua`i dessert a favorite.
Between singing, coaching and creating in the kitchen, she confessed her life if pretty sweet.
“I get to feed people who are appreciative; how awesome is that?” She said. “My motto is like the movie Field of Dreams: If you make good food they will come. It never occurred to me this wouldn’t be successful.”
Auntie B’s Café hours: 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday.