Istanbul Hawaii is a popular restaurant located in Kaka’ako, Hawaii. Their Mediterranean menu reflects Turkey’s mosaic culture by way of local ingredients: Spiced Kohala lamb tenderloin. Daily, handmade Mezze Platters. Sticky baklava covered in Hawaiian kiawe honey. “If you are going out to eat just to eat. I don’t think you are alive yet. … You have to really connect with what you eat. You can only do that if you know your farmers, if you know what you are cooking.” says Ahu Hettema, owner of Istanbul Restaurant.
Ahu moved to the States from Turkey at age 17. A lifetime of struggles taught her the healing power of nourishing food, and cooking, which became her way of connecting with her family. Fueled by a hard-working attitude, Ahu and her parents opened a farmers market stand in Honolulu in 2015 and, after 5 1/2 years of roadblocks, with a little help from FTHF, Istanbul Hawaii successfully opened it’s brick and mortar in 2020, even in the middle of a pandemic.
“Having good food, love and cooking with my mom basically healed me out of my depression. And so I told her, ‘let’s open the best restaurant in Honolulu!’” –Chef Ahu Hettema