Team Hawaii wins national culinary championship
By Wanda Adams
Advertiser Food Editor
For the first time, a team of student chefs from Hawaii has negotiated the many difficult steps to become winners of the prestigious American Culinary Federation’s national contest.
The team prepared a four-course meal for discerning judges accredited by the American Culinary Federation at the organization’s national conference in Orlando, Fla.
You could almost hear the pop song refrain over the phone: “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!”
Kapiolani Community College chef instructor and team leader of Student Team Hawaii tried to pretend: “We just lost,” he said, grimly.
And then the enthusiasm broke through: “Nah, we won!”
Leake was barely able to come up with a quote, he had so many calls to make and so much on his mind. But he said: “So what are you going to do now that you have won a national title?”
What they are going to do is go to lunch tomorrow at Epcot Center with Jerome Bocuse, son of the lengendary French chef Paul Bocuse. This is the chef equivalent of lunch, after a sold-out concert, with U2’s Bono.
Chef Roy Yamaguchi, who hosted a major fundraiser for the team before they left the Islands, was elated. He said the win was not just a great boost for the individuals involved but potentially for the Island economy. “I ve always felt Hawai’i had a lot of unrecognized talent . . . This kind of competition puts (that talent) in front of people.”
Chef Alan Wong, a team supporter who had just recerived a text message on the victory, said, “it’s almost as if the University of Hawai’i won a national championship!”
Speaking from Orlando, Kapiolani Community College culinary department chair Ron Takahashi said, “It is a win that all of Hawai’i can be proud of . It shows how committed the community college sytems are to excellence in education. It really is a win for all the community colleges, not just KCC.”
Chef George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro restaurant, who has employed many community college students in his kitchens, was enthused: “I am so proud of them. I think that Hawai’i cooks are world-class. The cooking expertise in Hawai’i, the caring, I have never seen on the Mainland, caring about the food, about the taste, the execution. I’m not surprised.”
“It was brutal,” said Leake who, along with chef instructor Alan Tsuchiyama had to stand aside and not give any coaching to the team during the competition. “They maintained their cool. They were able to pull it through.”
Team Hawai‘i is comprised of student chefs Anna Hirano (team alternate/sous-chef), Keaka Lee, Tate Nakano-Edwards, San Shoppell (team captain), Rena Suzuki and Ken Yi.
Kapi‘olani CC Professor Frank Leake serves as team coach and manager and Kapi‘olani CC Instructor Alan Tsuchiyama serves as team teacher and coach.
Team Hawai’i’ competed against teams from Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Teams had three hours and 20 minutes to prep and cook, and 40 minutes to plate up and serve plus a 30 minute set-up window and a 30 minute clean-up window during which they were inspected by judges.
The winning team was announced at the ACF President’s Grand Ball today.
The American Culinary Federation, Inc., established in 1929, is the premier professional organization for culinarians in North America with more than 22,000 members spanning 230 chapters nationwide.
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