Kitch'n Cook'd owner Yasuo Deguchi
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
Yasuo Deguchi and his wife, Setsuko, built their Kitch'n Cook'd Potato Chips business out of a two-room, hollow-tile building on their property in Captain Cook, earning the freedom to travel the world until Yasuo's death on Christmas Eve at the age of 92.
Yasuo and Setsuko didn't have anything resembling job descriptions or titles as they ran the small business they started in the 1950s, said their son, Kevin.
"You could say she was the boss and he was the worker," Kevin said.
There were lots of tedious hours cooking, packaging and delivering potato chips after Yasuo ended his shift at the Capt. Cook Coffee Co. and, later, when his day finished as a groundskeeper at the Kona Surf Hotel.
He was not a loud or gregarious person, Kevin said, yet Yasuo enjoyed meeting people on his potato chip delivery route and talking story.
The work to cook and prepare the chips in separate shifts could mean long days and nights, Kevin said. But it was lucrative enough to Yasuo and Setsuko to see the world beyond the tiny town of Captain Cook on the Big Island.
"Through the business, they took trips to Canada, China and Japan," Kevin said. "They visited the grandkids and Vegas, of course. They got to see the country, see the world."
Yasuo was born in Captain Cook on April 2, 1916, and raised in Kailua, Kona, the eldest of 11 children.
He had to drop out of Konawaena High School to help support the family. But at the age of 48, in between working two jobs and raising his own family, Yasuo earned his high school general equivalency degree in 1964.
"As the years went on, he decided he should complete his high school education," Kevin said.
It was Setsuko's idea to start making potato chips in the 1950s, Kevin said.
He does not know the full story, but said it is just coincidence that the chips and packaging resemble the Maui Chip brand.
"Same style, color and everything," Kevin said. "People assume we were a franchise. But it's two separate companies."
"I remember my early childhood hand washing each potato and then cooking it," Kevin said. "... It was all hand-made in a room with a cooker. Nothing fancy. Strictly my mom and my dad, and myself to a certain degree."
Quality control was little more than gauging the color of each chip, Kevin said.
"It wasn't mechanized," he said. "When the chips came out of the oil, if they didn't look right they went right into the garbage."
Kitch'n Cook'd Potato Chips supplied about 15 large and mostly small, mom-and-pop stores along the Kona Coast and about another 15 restaurants until Yasuo and Setsuko sold the business in 1990 and retired.
In addition to his wife and his son, Yasuo is survived by daughters, Sharon Waldon and Iris Watanabe; brothers, Yasunori and Allan; sisters, Fujie Inouye, Patsy Akimoto, Mitsue Ishimoto and Mutsumi Komo; four grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Visitation is scheduled for 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Kona Hongwanji Mission in Kealakekua, Hawai'i. Memorial service will follow.
Reach Dan Nakaso at firstname.lastname@example.org.