Ron Kouchi | Articles

Cookin’ in the Senate



February 22, 2012


Whether it’s his homemade stew or kulolo, Ron Kouchi knows that the way to a fellow senator’s heart (and vote) is the stomach

It’s a lazy weekend morning, and state Sen. Ron Kouchi and wife Joy have filled their house with the aroma of warm sugar. That’s because they’ve just finished up a batch of kulolo and are putting the slabs into neat little bundles. Though it might be easy to assume it’s Joy’s kitchen, she’s quick to point out it isn’t.

“Ron does all the cooking,” she says. “I’m a domestic diva.”

Whether it’s his chili, pot roast, stew or baked spaghetti, Kouchi’s cooking has become one of the most useful ways to network with key people when he’s in Honolulu at the Capitol.

“It’s how I lobby,” he says. “I end up bringing food, and whether it’s feeding our support staff or legislators, it’s certainly helpful.”

A public servant for 30-plus years, it’s that kind of down-home, low-key style that perpetuates Kouchi’s approachable vibe, which in turn helps keep him abreast of the issues facing Kaua’i residents. Perhaps not surprisingly, many are the same issues that motivated him to get into politics in the first place: the economy, sustainability, and taking care of our keiki, kupuna and everyone in between.

It was returning home to Kaua’i in 1982 after working on O’ahu as a legislative analyst for former state Rep. Dennis Yamada that led Kouchi to run. It was a time when the Garden Isle seemed nothing more than a series of ghost towns.