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Experts Say There’s Nothing Hawaiian About Luau-Themed Chick-Fil-a

  • On a current street journey via Atlanta, Georgia, I finished at Truett’s Luau. 
  • The themed fast-food location is marketed as a tribute to Hawaii. 
  • Experts on Hawaiian meals confirmed the menu and decor do not really replicate the US state in any respect.

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For over a yr, Truett’s Luau — the Hawaii-themed Chick-fil-A location outdoors of Atlanta, Georgia — has been exhibiting up on TikTok with movies raking in as many as 5.6 million views

TikTokers documented trips from Maine, risked missing a flight home, and seven-hour drives in an effort to style what’s being labeled as “Hawaiian Chick-fil-A.”

According to Chick-fil-A’s website, firm founder S. Truett Cathy needed to “deliver Hawaii to Fayetteville, Georgia” after visiting the islands and opened the situation in 2013. It was Cathy’s final idea restaurant earlier than he left his publish as CEO.  

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So on a current street journey via Atlanta, I made a decision I’d go see what all of the hype was about. But I — a born and raised New Yorker who has by no means visited Hawaii — knew I could not do it with out assist from individuals who know the delicacies greatest. 

truett's luau

Pineapple rooster tacos (left) and tropical nuggets (proper) from Truett’s Luau.

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

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The meals was tasty, however the consultants advised me it is not Hawaiian

It’s clear that the nationwide chain has created a product that tastes good (for my part) and that buyers like. According to a Statista report, Chick-fil-A introduced in $12.8 billion from US gross sales in 2020. 

I wasn’t anticipating the meals to fall quick on taste. My curiosity was rooted extra closely in whether or not the meals was consultant of conventional Hawaiian delicacies. 

With menu items just like the Island Chicken Salad Sandwich (that includes diced pineapples and grapes), Tropical Nuggets (Chick-fil-A traditional nuggets tossed in “candy tropical sauce”), and a Luau Burger (a bacon cheeseburger with a pineapple disk), I requested cooks and cultural consultants whether or not the substances made sense inside the context of meals served in Hawaii or at a conventional luau. 

“It’s about as Hawaiian as Elvis Presley holding an ukulele singing in ‘Blue Hawaii’,” Chef Sheldon Simeon, proprietor of Tin Roof in Maui, advised me. 

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Kainoa Horcajo, a cultural marketing consultant at The Mo’olelo Group, mentioned, “I did not learn something within the menu that’s Hawaiian.” Mark Noguchi, chef and co-founder of Pili Group and ChefHui, agreed.

None of the consultants I spoke with thought-about pineapple to be a Hawaiian meals or ingredient. After visiting Truett’s Luau, I noticed that most of the objects labeled “island” or “luau” integrated the tangy fruit. 

Chef Kyle Kawakami of the Maui Fresh Streatery meals truck mentioned breaking down which meals have been native to the land versus those introduced by completely different teams of settlers is essential to understanding the meals many Hawaiians would and would not contemplate a part of their tradition. But to him, pineapple and teriyaki sauce (additionally on the menu) are examples of non-Hawaiian meals now related to the islands. 

Kawakami says if he had seen one thing like a roasted or marinated rooster much like the Hawaiian Huli-huli rooster dish, it might have been paying homage to meals he is extra used to at dwelling.

truett's luau

There have been nods to movie-versions of the Hawaiian islands in all places.

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I questioned whether or not the décor was true to the luau theme — consultants mentioned no

The workers have been sporting tropical shirts, surf boards have been on the partitions, faux dried grass hung from fake ceiling roofs, and devices have been on show close to the entrance door.  

Chef Noguchi mentioned that the décor was extra paying homage to a tiki bar, which Horcajo mentioned is “utterly made up” and “has no foundation in Hawaiian tradition.”

“There is a ton of cultural appropriation on the market, and a youthful me would in all probability be extra indignant about it,” Horcajo mentioned. But his self right this moment thinks that “it may’t be cultural appropriation as a result of there’s actually nothing Hawaiian about it.”

A luau in it is most simple kind, Kawakami mentioned, is a gathering with music, performances, and virtually at all times meals. “If you have a look at this in probably the most primary method, I suppose you possibly can name it a luau,” he mentioned. “But actually, it isn’t. There’s nothing conventional about it.”

truett's luau

Tiki columns and surfboards have been a part of the décor.

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Ultimately, the concept that a big firm selected to strive conveying the spirit of Hawaii could also be a constructive, some mentioned

Chef Kawakami mentioned he commends folks across the nation who “have honesty behind what they’re making an attempt to do” in opening a Hawaiian-themed restaurant, doing the analysis to try to get it proper. But to him, this Chick-fil-A location did not hit that mark. 

In the sense of feeling indignant about any cultural appropriation, on this case, Horcajo mentioned, “I’d be indignant if it wasn’t so laughable.”

He continued to clarify how it may be a great factor on the finish of the day that Chick-fil-A’s founder selected to finish his private enterprise enlargement with a tribute to Hawaii. 

“It speaks to the facility of Hawaii and Hawaiian tradition that bought into his coronary heart, into his soul,” he mentioned. “The manifestation of that’s one thing that isn’t Hawaiian in any respect. But talking to the facility of what Hawaii is, I feel is actually cool.” 

“Aloha is what the world wants proper now,” Horcajo mentioned. “It’s mutual understanding, mutual love, mutual respect.”

“This restaurant is not Hawaiian,” he continued, “but when it may plant a seed that makes someone be taught extra about Hawaiian tradition, then that is a fairly cool factor.”

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