X

Please be advised some restaurants may have modified hours or temporarily closed. Please call the restaurant before you go to verify their safety guidelines and status. 👉👉👉 TAKE-OUT GUIDE

Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: 7-Eleven Hawaii

Restaurant Insider

March 8, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

7-Eleven Hawaii category manager for fresh foods and procurement Debbie Lee Soon, master sommelier Patrick Okubo, Anne Lee, master sommelier Roberto Viernes and 7-Eleven Hawaii category manager and licensee private brands Rochelle Ohata.

ANNE LEE speaks with category manager for fresh foods and procurement DEBBIE LEE SOON category manager and licensee private brands ROCHELLE OHATA master sommeliers ROBERTO VIERNES AND PATRICK OKUBO

7-Eleven in Hawaii has always been more than a convenience store — with each customer greeted with the spirit of aloha and a food selection from around the world, everyone who walks in is sure to walk out satisfied.

Now, 7-Eleven is offering wine pairings, specially curated by master sommeliers Roberto Viernes and Patrick Okubo. I’m excited to share with you the pairings that they’ve come up with! Additionally, I got a chance to talk with category manager for fresh foods and procurement Debbie Lee Soon, and category manager and licensee private brands Rochelle Ohata.

7-Eleven has 64 locations statewide, and pricing at each establishment varies. Be sure to visit 7elevenhawaii.com for more information.

Steamed Pork Hash paired with Apaltagua Pinot Noir. Prices vary by location

AL: How long have you been with 7-Eleven?

DLS: 7-Eleven’s Fresh Food has been my primary focus for more than seven years.

AL: What are some of the restaurant’s specialties or customer favorites?

DLS: The top two items in the whole company are Spam Musubi and Pork Hash Shumai — local favorites! Every type of food is offered such as sandwiches, musubi, sushi, bentos, noodle dishes, salads, fruits and a selection of party platters. So of course we must have a good selection of wine to go with them. Roberto and Patrick both understand local flavors and have the expertise to select the wine pairings.

AL: What makes 7-Eleven stand out from other convenience stores on the island?

DLS: There are 64 7-Eleven stores on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai so we are never too far away. Our food is made fresh daily and delivered to every store overnight to be ready for our regular morning customers. We have quite a variety of hot and cold items to satisfy any appetite. Freshness and quality are top priorities. We offer the convenience of getting fresh food and beverages to go — in one place!

AL: Do you have an executive or head chef that creates the 7-Eleven food items?

DLS: Our main partner is Warabeya U.S.A. with a product development team dedicated to creating exclusive items for 7-Eleven Hawaii. We taste eight to 12 new items every week. Yes, that’s a lot of research and development required to create a good dish.

AL: What type of cuisine would you say 7-Eleven specializes in?

DLS: 7-Eleven customers reflect the wide range of people in all Hawaii’s neighborhoods so we offer many different locally inspired dishes. You can find American, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Italian, Hawaiian, Thai and Vietnamese. For breakfast, you can get Eggs with Maple Sausage, Portuguese Sausage, Longanisa and Tocino — or Spam of course. We have Vietnamese Beef Pho and Filipino Sinigang soup. We have the local favorite Loco Moco and Chicken Mushroom Alfredo Spaghetti. We have Somen Salad and Quinoa Protein Boost Bowl. A customer just told us, “if you can’t find anything to eat at 7-Eleven, you’re not hungry!”

Shoyu Tuna Sushi Roll paired with Echo Bay sauvignon blanc

AL: What is something customers may not know about 7-Eleven Hawaii?

DLS: 7-Eleven Hawaii’s parent company is 7-Eleven Japan but we are here in Hawaii. Our Hawaii management team supports all stores, creates fresh food and offers snacks, beverages and many other items for our local customers. I hope they feel the aloha from the entire 7-Eleven Hawaii ohana.

AL: What is your title at 7-Eleven and how long have you worked there?

RO: I’m the category manager and licensee private brands. I have been with 7-Eleven Hawaii for about four years.

AL: What makes 7-Eleven stand out from other convenience stores on the island?

RO: You will not find a master sommelier curated wine selection at any other convenience store in Hawaii. The idea behind our Master Sommelier program is to provide an approachable selection of wines to our customers that are recommended by local wine experts. Our wine assortment leaves the guesswork out of choosing the right wine for any occasion.

AL: What type of wine would you say 7-Eleven specializes in?

RO: We tailor our wine selection to complement a variety of local cuisines. Patrick and Roberto are well-versed in Hawaii eating, which is why their recommendations fair well with local palates.

AL: Anything else you want to share about 7-Eleven Hawaii?

RO: I am very grateful that Patrick and Roberto were so supportive of our initiative and continue to recommend exceptional wines for our customers.

AL: What is your official title and affiliation with 7-Eleven Hawaii?

RV: I’m the Hawaii associate state manager for Ste Michelle Wine Estates, and I am part of 7-Eleven Hawaii’s Master Sommelier program. This program is really a gentleman’s agreement for us to provide some recommendations for 7-Eleven’s customers.

Spam Musubi paired with Merf chardonnay

AL: How did you start in this industry and why?

RV: I originally started in the kitchen and wanted to be a chef. While doing an apprenticeship for a French chef, I took the introductory course for the Court of Master Sommeliers. My palate and mind were blown! I didn’t even know such a world of wine existed. It sparked my passion for wine. My first job was with R. Field Wine Co. in Ward Center in 1998.

AL: How long have you been affiliated with 7-Eleven Hawaii?

RV: I’m not sure, maybe two-and-a-half years.

AL: 7-Eleven has always been the go-to neighborhood store, and you are both some of the best-known sommeliers in Hawaii. How did this partnership come about?  

RV: They (Mark Imada and Rochelle) reached out to me to ask if I would partner with them to recommend some wines for their stores. I thought the idea was a good one.

AL: What types of wines are available at 7-Eleven Hawaii locations?

RV: It’s a range of everyday drinking wines that over-deliver for the money.

AL: If you had to choose one thing to eat from 7-Eleven Hawaii for an entire year, what would it be and why?

RV: Another tough question. I’m actually a cheating vegetarian (laughs). But if I wasn’t I would probably choose the Lau Lau and Kalua Pork Hawaiian plate. It gives you a variety of items all on one plate and it’s delicious!

Lau Lau and Kalua Pork Hawaiian Plate paired with Elouan pinot noir. All prices vary by location.

AL: What is your official title and position with 7-Eleven Hawaii?

PO: Master sommelier with Young’s Market Co. I work with 7-Eleven Hawaii in curating their wine selections

AL: How did you start in this industry and why?

PO: I started working in the restaurant at age 18 at The Old Spaghetti Factory. I enjoyed the restaurant business so much I decided to major in travel industry management with a hospitality emphasis.

AL: How long have you been affiliated with 7-Eleven Hawaii?

PO: Three years.

AL: 7-Eleven has always been the go-to neighborhood store, and you are one of the best-known sommeliers in Hawaii. How did this partnership come about?

PO: My co-worker Mark Poynter is always trying to make me “famous.” 7-Eleven came up with the idea and pitched it to him.

AL: What types of wines are available at 7-Eleven Hawaii locations?

PO: A variety of different grapes from different regions for a good value. For example, petite sirah from California, pinot noir from Chile, Viura from Spain, sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

AL: If you had to choose one thing to eat from 7-Eleven Hawaii for an entire year, what would it be and why?

PO: I eat the garlic chicken musubi on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s out at the store, and mochiko chicken musubi is also as good.

Master sommelier Roberto Viernes’ 5-course meal

Roberto Viernes

AL: If you had to pick a 5-course meal from 7-Eleven Hawaii items and pair them with wines that can be found at 7-Eleven Hawaii, what would they be and why?

• Spam Musubi ($1.55) with Merf Chardonnay ($15.99). The sweet fruit and refreshing acidity play a perfect yin to the salty and fatty yang of the musubi.

• Somen Salad ($3.99) with Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio ($20.99). The soy dressing requires some acidity and the Pinot Grigio also brings a nice dash of citrus flavor which pairs so well with the flavors of nori and kamaboko.

• Deluxe Musubi Bento with Kaarage Chicken ($5.49) with 14 Hands Red Blend in cans ($6.99). This red blend has an almost jammy fruit character that balances out the fattiness and texture of the fried kaarage chicken as well as the musubi.

• Lau Lau and Kalua Pork Hawaiian Plate ($9.99) with Elouan Pinot Noir ($24.99). Pinot noir has a natural affinity for pork, which plays a huge part in this dish. The smoky kalua pork and earthiness of the luau leaf is a natural pair with pinot noir.

• Salisbury Steak and Spaghetti Combo ($6.99) with Intrinsic Cabernet ($24.99). The steak has plenty of protein and the spaghetti has a nice tomato edge to it. The cabernet complements almost any beef dish.

Patrick Okubo’s recommended 5-course meal

Patrick Okubo

Shoyu Tuna Sushi Roll ($2.79) and Tofu Salad ($3.99) with Echo Bay, Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99); Quinoa Boost Bowl ($5.69) and Tarima Blanco ($13.99); Steamed Pork Hash ($3.99) and Apaltagua Pinot Noir ($14.99); Salisbury Steak with Gravy ($4.99), Spellbound Petit Sirah ($16.99) and Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99); and Matcha Green Tea Doughnut ($1.89), Nutella Banana Sandwich ($2.99) and Caposaldo Peach Sparkling ($9.99).

For a party of five, buy one bottle of each of the five wines and two of each of the food items. The total will be $129.45 including tax ($24.89 per person).

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best