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BBQ Saved My Life

Tell me YOUR story. Where and how did you get your start? I want to know all about you.
Growing up on the Big Island of Hawai`i, family and friends, known as Ohana, hold significant importance in our culture. Since my early years, I was captivated by the cooking skills of both my grandmothers. I would eagerly watch them cook, learning their unique styles. Despite getting reprimanded for peeking into pots, I remained engrossed, standing on a stool for hours until the meals were ready.

Fast forward to high school in 1989 where I met my wife, Krystie. After
getting married, in 2001, I experienced severe headaches and numbness in my
extremities. This led to a prescription for potent painkillers, eventually
resulting in a less productive lifestyle. The situation led to our divorce
three years later. I was struggling, feeling distanced from my family and
children…I felt lost.

Rediscovering my passion for cooking by preparing meals for the homeless
reignited a sense of purpose. I would cook for friends in need, including
those battling cancer or other struggles. The act of feeding others brought
me joy and hope, as they expressed feelings of love and acceptance. Most of
these individuals had been abandoned by their families, and my cooking
offered them a glimmer of hope and kindness that made a significant impact
on their lives.

Reconnecting with my faith, I began to rebuild my relationships with Krystie, our children, and our family. This miraculous transformation restored love to a deeper level than ever before. We remarried and ventured into the food business with Kealoha’s BBQ. Our journey started with a successful event at the Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, leading to regular appearances at Farmers Markets, special occasions, and private catering. Upon relocating to Colorado, we established our first Kealoha’s BBQ eatery, serving delicious food, aiding the less fortunate, and spreading the aloha spirit among the wonderful community in Denver.

How did you end up in Denver? Why Denver?
In 2018, our son graduated from Kamehameha High School and headed to CU Denver for college. During our visit to drop him off, we took part in the Taste of Colorado event and received an amazing response. Interestingly, prior to this, I dreamt about moving to
Colorado to launch Kealoha’s BBQ. When we returned in 2019 for another Taste of Colorado experience, the feedback was phenomenal. This led to an opportunity to secure a spot on the 16th Street Mall, prompting us to take the bold step of leaving our jobs in Hawai`i and relocating to Denver. Initially, Krystie was hesitant about the move since all our family (except our son) resided on the Big Island. However, she eventually agreed, and we took a leap of faith. We established Kealoha’s BBQ in October 2019, but unfortunately, we had to close for over a year and a half due to the pandemic. It was a challenging period, but we managed to persevere. We have grown to love Denver and the people who have become Ohana to us.

How many years of experience do you have in the BBQ business?
With more than 20 years of experience in the BBQ industry, we began cooking for our family gatherings and gradually extended our services to cover special events and catering. Now, we are proud to have our own cozy spot here in Denver.

What inspired you to open Kealoha, and how does it stand out from other food trucks in
the Denver area?

Initially, we hesitated to venture into entrepreneurship as we both had secure government jobs. It was the persistent encouragement from a close friend that finally pushed us to establish Kealoha’s BBQ. Embracing this leap of faith, we launched our very own company, Kealoha’s BBQ. In Hawai`i, the diverse mix of ethnicities, stemming from immigrants who arrived to work on the sugar plantations, has enriched our culinary landscape with a fusion of flavors. Our cooking style mirrors our varied heritage of traditional Hawai’ian cuisine, passed down through generations, along with our unique and delicious creations. To maintain authenticity and capture the essence of the islands, we source Hawai’ian ingredients directly from home. Our emphasis on sharing stories and preparing meals with aloha sets us apart from other food trucks in Denver.

What do you love most about being in the BBQ business and running your food truck?
Our BBQ business brings us immense joy through meeting new people, forging friendships, and witnessing their reactions to our food. Customers frequently share how our meals and welcoming spirit have uplifted their spirits, even on challenging days. The invaluable happiness and appreciation we receive from others is truly priceless.

What advice would you give to aspiring professionals in the food industry?
The most valuable counsel we can provide is to wholeheartedly pursue your dream and remain steadfast in the face of any obstacles hindering your passion. Envision your path, meticulously strategize your actions, and steadfastly execute them to realize your aspirations.

What type of food do you specialize in? Do you have a food philosophy, or signature dish?
Specializing in Hawaiian cuisine, we offer a diverse range of dishes influenced by various ethnicities that have migrated to Hawai’i. From traditional Hawaiian fare to multicultural dishes from the plantation era and contemporary island delicacies, our menu is a fusion of flavors. Our standout creation is the lilikoi BBQ ribs, while our most sought-after dish is the combo plate featuring lilikoi BBQ ribs and lilikoi teriyaki chicken served with white rice and island mac salad. In our view, cooking is a deeply spiritual act, as it involves sharing love and aloha from the heart to pass on that same love and aloha to our customers. Our guiding principle is to approach everything with love – 1 Corinthians 16:14.

How do you see Kealoha growing and evolving in the coming years?
This month, we are relocating from our small food stand to the 16th Street Mall food kiosk, which is double the size of our current space. Our plan is to expand and unveil new food offerings. Our goal is to establish several smaller restaurants across Colorado to spread the joy of great food and aloha with more people.

What else have I not asked you about that you want to share with our readers?
We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Matt, Crystal and everyone at Denver North, for giving us this opportunity to share our story.  We aim to inspire you with our journey to show that if we can overcome these challenges, so can you! Remember, with God, all things are possible, so begin with Jesus.

"We are truly grateful to all of you who have visited and supported our small business! If you haven't had the chance to try our
food, we look forward to meeting you soon. Your support means the world to us!"

  • Krystie and Kealoha Campbell