Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Kaiulani Spices

Restaurant Insider

February 27, 2022

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

ANNE LEE speaks with Kaiulani Spices owner and chef KAI COWELL

Undercover chef Kai Cowell has been cooking since she was 10. While attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and Kapiolani Community College here in Honolulu, she realized that she wanted to be more than a chef, incorporating the health benefits of spices to create something for the masses. Flavor without the labor is her mantra.

“I wanted to encourage people to cook, to illustrate that you can please, even amaze, your family and friends with gourmet home-cooked meals without spending hours over the stove and without relying on the abundance of saturated fats, salt, sugars, refined carbohydrates and processed foods filled with preservatives and additives,” she says.

Kaiulani Spices has an array of seasonings and products.

All the spices from her Kaiulani Spices — vegan, organic, no MSG, gluten-free, nut-free, no fillers/preservatives — are made here in Hawaii, roasted and ground in her manufacturing facility in Honolulu.

AL: How did you come up with these spices?

KC: My sister gave me my first rub, which is a blend of herbs and spices, and it was life changing for me. It saved me time and the outcome was delicious. Rubs penetrate your food and provide a layer of flavor besides salt and pepper. Kaiulani Spices are a blend of eight spices, except for a few like my Chinese five spice.

AL: There are specific ingredients you chose. Why?

KC: Every single spice is medicinal. Turmeric is high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory. Garlic is a good cure for colds. My husband and I are super healthy due to eating spices every day. I am 71 and he is in his 90s.

AL: Where can you get the spices?

KC: We are in many retail locations and online (kaispices.com) with free shipping for orders of $50 or more within the U.S.

AL: What are the other offerings for retail purchase?

KC: I have a cookbook, Spices for Life, which shows how to incorporate my spices into my favorite recipes, including my signature Exotic Curry Fried Rice with Mangoes and Cranberries. This dish was a first-place winner at the 2014 Mango Festival at the Moana Surfrider. This cookbook also includes a glossary of the 24 spices that I use and their health attributes.

I also have made a curry rice kit for purchase, in white or brown rice. Everything is in a bag, (exotic curry, uncooked Jasmine rice and dried cranberries). You can cook it in a rice pot and add some green onion, cilantro as a garnish, and dinner is served. I have also created spice sets such as veggie, pasta, pizza and barbecue sets, designed to use specially for your preferred food item.

AL: Whats can we expect in the future for Kaiulani Spices?

KC: We will be getting a refresh in our packaging, and I also created an elegant limited-edition spice gift box, an eight-bottle collection of my bestselling 100% certified organic seasoning blends. This will be available at exclusive department stores in the future.

Grilled Kona Coffee Steak


• 1 each (4-6 ounces per person) short ribs, rib-eye, New York steak or porterhouse

• 2-3 teaspoons Kaiulani Spice’s Kona coffee rub per steak

• 1/2 teaspoon Kaiulani Spice’s alaea sea salt with garlic and herbs per steak

• 2 teaspoons olive oil per steak


In a small bowl, combine Kona coffee spice and alaea sea salt with garlic and herbs. Rub steak well, and massage olive oil into meat.

Marinate at least 1 hour (Kai Cowell recommends overnight). Grill steaks (Cowell prefers a cast-iron skillet) or broil in the oven to your liking.

Make as many servings as you like, increasing ingredients as desired.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best