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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 3:23 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hawaii chef students win regional competition

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

For only the second time, the Hawai'i team of chef students has won the western regional competition of the American Culinary Federation, meaning they will compete in finals in Orlando, Fla., in July against other regional winners.

No Hawai'i team has ever won the nationals. Speaking by cell phone from a cab on the way back from the airport, Kapi'olani Community College culinary arts professor Frank Leake was jubilant, if jet-lagged: "We finally did it. We finally took it."

The team of San Shopell (captain), Rena Suzuki, Tate Nakano-Edwards and Keaka Lee, with alternate Anna Hirano and logistics manager Ken Yi, went without sleep for days, working in borrowed kitchens to create first an elaborate seafood platter and then a multi-course meal.

Leake and team teacher chef instructor Alan Tsuchiyama worked alongside them on menus and recipes they've been practicing for months. The students had to demonstrate not only that they could prepare delicious food but that they had acquired specific skills and understood classic techniques, Leake said. One requirement was to reproduce a dish from Escoffier — no innovation, no deviation. But other courses allowed more improvisation.

The students now get one day off, and then they're starting practice for nationals.

The competition expenses were partly supported by a very successful fundraiser hosted by chef Roy Yamaguchi in March, and with aid from Starwood Hotels, which put the students up (not that they got much time in their hotel rooms), Leake said. But now, the fundraising starts all over again.

Reach Wanda A. Adams at wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.