Explore Hawaii

Gala Dinner Benefits Hawaii's Pacific Aviation Museum

Executive chefs and mixologists come together to raise funds for museum.

No one told her that there wouldn't be a fridge or walk-in. Nor did anyone inform Holly Peterson that she would have to shovel coal in order to use a stove. When the California-based chef agreed to cater a private gala affair aboard the Orient Express in recognition of Robert Mondavi’s acceptance of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest presidential honor, she knew it would be challenging.

“The kitchen hadn’t yet been refurbished,” Peterson laughs. “And the only way to control the temperature of the oven was to have the conductor—via Walkie-Talkie—either speed up so the temperature goes up or slow down to reduce the temperature. In the end, though, the staff was so proud of what we collectively created.”

Peterson again will collaborate on a benefit gala dinner, but this time the setting will involve a different type of transportation setting—Hangar 79 on Ford Island. The event is the Pacific Aviation Museum’s annual fundraiser and will take place on Dec. 5. Themed “For Love of Country—Pass It On,” the evening’s proceeds will help provide support for the nonprofit’s educational programs, and the continued expansion and restoration of the museum’s artifacts and exhibits.

“Having never been to Ford Island, I was shocked,” says Peterson of her initial visit to the historical grounds that survived the attack that initiated the U.S. effort in World War II. “It still looks like it’s war torn; it had been bombed and just left.”

Always a visionary, Peterson came up with the idea—appropriately while sipping on a mai tai—to incorporate a mixology element and one that would have a greater impact than just a single night. “I thought how do we get more people to contribute to the museum?” Peterson notes. “And then I thought what hotels were here in 1941—the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Surfrider. It made sense then that Starwood would be the heir apparent to partner with us.”

In addition to Starwood chefs Daniel Delbrel, Ryan Loo and Colin Hazama, mixologists Dana Appleget, Ryan Tanji and Kimberly Fukuzono were asked to develop a cocktail for the event. The three came up with The Officer, The Admiral’s Itch and Buzz The Tower,respectively.

“My boyfriend actually came up with the name because he had just watched ‘Top Gun,'” says RumFire assistant manager Fukuzono of her Buzz the Tower cocktail. “It’s a mix of Ocean Vodka, John Taylor Falernum, real coconut syrup, Kahlua, ginger ale and Blue Curaçao, which looks like the sky. In the movie, when Tom Cruise buzzed the tower, the guys in the control room would spill their coffee, and hence the use of Kahlua.”

Though all three cocktails will be served during the benefit dinner, only The Officer made with Jim Beam will be offered at the Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Waikiki and Royal Hawaiian Hotel after the event, with $1 from each drink sold donated to the museum during December and January.

“Not everyone can afford to attend a gala dinner,” Peterson says. “I’m sure people want to contribute to the restoration so this is a great way to do so. The hotels will charge what they charge for the cocktail and they’ll give a $1 to the Pacific Aviation Museum. If everybody got involved, it wouldn’t take that long to restore the museum.”

Now a National Historic Landmark, Ford Island is still pockmarked with the scars of war, but ongoing efforts to preserve the buildings and grounds continue. Attendees will get a first look at newly restored aircraft from the Lt. Ted Shealey’s Restoration Shop and the unique B-17E Swamp Ghost Exhibit.

“By partnering with Starwood, it allows us to do something large,” Peterson says. “We want to build roots and longevity with this fundraiser. We want to take it to a whole new level. It will be a polished event but not snobby.”

For information, table sponsorships and individual tickets, visit PacificAviationMuseum.org or contact Director of Development Carol Greene at 808.441.1006.