A Brief History
First Commercial Kitchen was started by Peter Kam in 1981 as a one-man food manufacturing and distribution business originally known as Rib Roaring Recipes.
A meeting of fate with Mr. Chew On Lum, the owner of Lum's Meat Center, formerly located in Kapahulu, was the start of this adventure. After Mr. Lum expressed his desire to retire, Peter managed to scrape up $2,000, and a downpayment was made towards the purchase of the famous Lum's Char-Siu Sauce recipe. With a limited budget, Peter purchased the necessary items for manufacturing: a spoon, rubber gloves, a plastic baby bathtub, a pitcher, and the most expensive item: a scale. At this early stage, Peter formulated his business philosophy, which was to have the business fully self sustaining from day one; and not a penny more was going to be put into the business besides the original $2,000.
Peter used the rubber gloves to mix the ingredients, and the pitcher to fill the containers. At first he produced the sauce in the same white colored saimin containers orignally used by Mr. Lum, with a small bright orange label on the lid.
Because the sauce was easily squeezed out of this fragile container, he found the next cheapest alternative: a clear deli container, and made his own home made label. This label had a picure of a dragon on it which he sketched. After placing this product in every supermarket on Oahu, he discovered that the characteristic red color of the sauce faded because of exposure to the supermarket lights. He also noticed that when the sauce was filled into a clear container, the unsightly layering of ingredients became evident. Fortunately with his Food Science background, he was able to solve these two problems.
Some time later, he had enough cash flow to move up to better packaging which was a plastic jar with a screw on lid. And so his mornings were filled with delivering sauce all over the island, and his afternoons occupied with purchasing of ingredients and supplies, and manufacturing of sauce.
After a few years and pondering on how to expand this business, he decided to manufacture products for other companies. His first big decision was signing a lease on a new warehouse which was to be the First Commercial Kitchen. His first client was a salsa company who had fresh red and green salsas. This was in the mid eighties.
In 1996, Peter was fortunate to acquire the hundred year old import/distribution business known as Wing Coffee Company, which now serves as the distribution arm for First Commercial Kitchen LLC.
Peter is proud to continue and expand on the legacy started by Mr. Lum, the inventor of Lum's Char-Siu Sauce, which started him on this continuing journey. Since then, First Commercial Kitchen has evolved into Hawaii's first food processing incubator, producing about 300 products for 150 companies. Many food products you enjoy may have been made at this kitchen.
Original equipment used to make Lum's Char-Siu Sauce in 1981.
Our new business grew but had very little money, so creative ways to improve production were needed. The first piece of equipment built to increase production was a table to lay out an increasing number of filled bottles of sauce. After working on long tables which were boards on saw horses, a round turntable was built from various articles found in nearby dumpsters, including old luau table legs, scrap wood and metal, and a purchased 4'x8' sheet of plywood, gear motor, lazy susan bearings, and a rubber wheel which served as a friction drive to rotate the table. This piece of equipment saved on a lot of walking!
After hand capping thousands of bottles, we started using gloves, then heavier gloves, then a drill press rigged with a cordless drill to help us screw the caps on. Then the first portable cordless capper was built which enabled us to tighten caps on the bottles as fast as we could feed them.