Verde Celebrates Five Years

Verde in Kapa’a will mark five years March 12, and to celebrate, owner Maris Manzano has challenged her employees to create and promote a new menu item that’s only available on that special day.

Stepping up to the challenge, the staff created the Sopapilla Burger ($12.95), a popular meal in New Mexico, where Verde executive chef Joshua Stevens hails from.

“The Sopapilla Burger is our way of honoring Josh,” says cook Carlo Manzano. “He trained us in the kitchen, and without him there’d be no recipe.”

Verde’s sopapillas usually are served for dessert, but the staff transformed the deep-fried dough into a bun and stacked it with hamburger, Cheddar cheese, pickled red onions and spicy green chili.

The combination is brilliant: a crisp and chewy base topped with ground beef, melted cheese, crisp onions and thick chili. A side of waffle fries and garlic aioli come with the special and, as always, free chips and salsa.

All proceeds from the sale of the Sopapilla Burger will be divided among staff working that day. It’s Manzano’s way of saying mahalo.

“I could donate to charities, but I want to start here with them and their families,” says Manzano. “It’s a small business, and I couldn’t reach five years without them.”

This challenge is one way Manzano encourages her staff to take ownership of the New Mexican eatery. Her leadership style, based on respect, trust, personal responsibility and positive reinforcement, creates a convivial atmosphere among the workers who consider themselves an ohana.

“I’ve only been here for four months, but I really feel welcome,” says server Zaiana Huddy-Lemn. “I trained with everyone, so I got to know them all. We all work together, and I think that’s why we’re so close.”

“I can be myself here,” adds server Dylan Kuwamura. “This is my family, my home away from home. My last job was at a resort, and it was robotic and confining.”

“Yeah, there’s no walking on eggshells here,” agrees cook Jon Burns, “and it’s cool to have a chance to be creative.”