HRA Industry Profile Joslynne McDonough – GM Hula Hula’s Grand Naniloa (Hilo)

Beauty and Grace with Passion and Place.

“My mentors were industry Rockstars, James Beard-nominated chef Jamilka Borges of Independent and Hidden Harbor, and Advanced Sommelier Sarah Thomas of Le Bernadine, and co-creator of Kalamata’s Kitchen Kids Books,” said Hula Hula’s GM, Joslynne McDonough.

While Joslynne McDonough grew up and cut her culinary teeth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her family roots were here in the islands, so a few years ago she and her husband answered the call and decided to move to the family to Hawaii Island.

Now firmly part of the local community, and General Manager of the iconic Hula Hula’s restaurant at the Grand Naniloa in Hilo, McDonough says her time at Bar Marco in Pittsburgh was her real incubator of learning excellence where she was mentored by Chef Jamilka Borges and Advanced Sommelier Sarah Thomas. She says, “They always put so much love and passion into everything they did and I was privileged that they recognized my potential, taught me a lot and pushed me to continue my learning in the industry.”

Joslynne was quick to add, however, that she really gives much credit for her career success to her husband, who as a service industry veteran, always believed in what she wanted to do and was there to guide and encourage her.

As a young working mother, Joslynne is no stranger to hard work and balancing a busy career with quality family time. Having worked just about every possible restaurant position at one time or another, in various hotels, she was more than ready when the challenge of leading the team at Hula Hula’s was offered to her. Along the way to becoming General Manager she also became a self-confessed wine nerd and ended up taking the sommelier courses. “I like to think my palate is pretty dam good but we all like what we like!” she admits.

What she also likes is to talk passionately about the Grand Naniloa and what it represents. “Being in Hilo is what makes us who we are, both the Grand Naniloa and Hula Hula’s. Everyone stays true to their roots here and we always try to keep in mind our community and how we represent them. The heartbeat of this place is our culture, and our kuleana is to represent that in the best way we can,” McDonough said.

With two young children McDonough is without doubt a people person and that drives her passion for her role. “Out team has such a genuine sense of Aloha, and being able to enrich that by constantly elevating what we do provides our guests with a really special and, I believe, exclusive experience,” she said.

It will come as no surprise that this dynamic young woman’s favorite time of the year is Merrie Monarch week when the Grand Naniloa plays host to the Hawaii Island Fashion Showcase and Marketplace. McDonough enthuses, “It’s a great celebration of culture, community and the beauty of Hawaii. It’s like a wonderful holiday for all of us at the Grand Naniloa and Hula Hula’s with the festival incorporating hula, beautiful clothing, halaus and all of our O’hana coming together. A true example of the beauty of Hilo.”

When asked to look into her crystal ball, McDonough said, “We want to continue to serve our community and guests with exciting new food and events in a space that feels elevated and authentic, and I also want the world to come and experience the beauty of Hilo, the spectacular coastline and waterfalls, and to walk the streets of this beautiful town.”


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