HONOLULU (KHON2) — “We haven’t been able to move back to Hawaii currently, but it has been our number one dream goal. With financial reasons, it has held us back from being able to move back.”

It’s a story we know all too well about Hawaii residents who can’t afford to live here — and getting homesick because we miss the food is a big part of it. The 29-year-old Maui native behind ‘Ono Hawaiian Recipes is making the most of her move by bringing a taste of home to kitchens across the mainland.

Download the free KHON2 app for iOS or Android to stay informed on the latest news

After graduating from Kamehameha Schools and getting her bachelor’s degree in graphic design at BYU-Hawaii, Tani Belliston moved to Utah in 2015 at the end of her broadcast internship.

“There were little to no jobs specifically in my field of work at the time. Nor did I want to move back to Maui and live with my dad,” Belliston said. “I needed to be independent and make a living on my own. I knew that I couldn’t afford to continue to live in Hawaii for too long, so I made the hard decision to move to the mainland.”

Bellison was able to find a job with a local TV news station as a graphic artist and eventually married her husband whom she met at BYU-Hawaii. From there, they started their cooking journey together.

“He helps film and edits the videos while I research, cook, script, and edit,” Belliston said.

But for three years, she hesitated to start ‘Ono Hawaiian Recipes.

“I knew how and I had the resources to do it, but I kept myself from doing it. I kept comparing myself to others until I was brave enough from my husband’s encouragement to just post a simple recipe,” said Belliston. “It didn’t have to be perfect, but it was a first accomplishment to make myself proud enough to keep doing it until I got to where I am now.”

In 2019, she published her first recipe video on sweet and tangy lemon squares for any beginner to make in almost one minute.

“Can you believe it? Not exactly a local recipe, but it was a recipe where I needed to start off in order to get the ball rolling,” Belliston said.

While her husband gave her encouragement to start, Belliston says her dad has been her number one inspiration. Growing up, she says, wasn’t easy since her dad raised four kids by himself. Since he didn’t always have time to make dinner, Belliston and her siblings were tasked to cook or help with making meals. Looking back, Belliston is grateful that she was given the opportunity to learn to cook at an early age.

“I’ve never realized growing up how important a home cooked meal was to the family,” she said. “There’s no comparison in taste and memories when you gather together at the dining table to share thoughts, jokes, and emotions over a warm meal. I realized this whenever I came back home to visit my dad on Maui. No matter how many years have passed, I have always loved his cooking.”

Tani Belliston with her dad and siblings. (Courtesy: ‘Ono Hawaiian Recipes)

Most of the recipes behind ‘Ono Hawaiian Recipes are her own. Some are family recipes and others are from old Hawaii cookbooks that she’s modified to make her own. With so many places still under COVID restrictions and businesses on pause, Belliston says the pandemic has actually helped grow her business.

“A lot of people have turned to the internet to learn to cook,” she added. “We haven’t experienced any major downs except maybe inflation rising in grocery prices.”

Belliston hopes to grow ‘Ono Hawaiian Recipes even more and inspire others without a culinary background to try cooking. The bigger dream? For her recipes to bring her home one day.

Stolen jewels, boa constrictors killing owners, check out Weird News here

“I hope to create a new tradition for families to have an onolicious home cooked meal,” said Belliston. “The big goal that I want to see for ‘Ono Hawaiian Recipes is to have it become a primary support for my family so that we could move back to Hawaii.”