Night for budding chefs

PUHI — Throughout the night, students from the Kaua’i High School Academy of Hospitality and Travel worked.

Smiles on their faces, they wove through the throng of over 450 people that filled the Kaua’i Community College dining areas for the Culinary Institute of the Pacific’s fourth annual Spring Gourmet Gala.

But theirs was not an easy task, as they were in charge of getting dishes cleared so patrons could work on sampling more fare from the four visiting chefs as well as offerings from a dozen resident, or island chefs.

For this, the students were afforded a rousing and appreciative round of applause following the gala.

A portion of the AOHT contingent was helping check in patrons who were greeted personally by KCC Chancellor Peggy Cha, who stood at the entrance of the tent where she could acknowledge each guest before they were checked in by the AOHT and KCC staff members.

The winds may have been breezy, but that only served to keep things cool for the chefs and their KCC culinary-arts-student counterparts, as they worked non-stop for almost three hours to serve the sold-out audience.

“We were sold out a week before the event,” said Shirley Tani of the KCC Foundation, one of the event committee members said.

“It’s even bigger than last year. We gained more sponsors, and that’s good. But, we won’t know how much we made until later.”

Proceeds from the event help to develop the KCC culinary-arts program, and help to purchase essential kitchen and dining-room equipment, instructional materials, and small wares.

These items are used to train and serve students, patrons, and the hospitality industry in the community.

For the fourth annual event, University of Hawai’i President Dr. David McClain returned with his wife, and became part of the audience as the couple anxiously awaited to see what items from the silent auction they might win.

As it turned out, the McClains did not win any of the random-drawing gift baskets, but David McClain ended up with a round of golf at the Puakea Golf Course, while Mrs. McClain went home with some University of Hawai’i logo-wear.

When Myles Shibata was named the winner of the event grand prize, there was merriment in the audience, as people worked to be part of the 20-person guest list for a catered affair by Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors, the grand prize. The event was also accompanied by paired wines from Johnson Brothers of Hawai’i and valued at $2,000.

A 30-day Dry-Aged Rib Eye Steak with a Seafood Bearnaise Sauce was one of the crowd favorites, prepared by Chef Danny Morioka of DK Steak House. Chef Alan Wong was a returnee, and his offering of “Kona Gold” Maine Lobster and Aquacultured Baby Abalone from the Big Island with Sea Asparagus and Green Onion Sauces had a line to his station throughout the night. That kept the guest chef busy, beads of perspiration showing on his forehead throughout the night.

Additionally, Wong offered Olive Oil Slow Poached Maui Cattle Company Grass-Fed Beef, Organically Grown Hamakua Mushrooms, and Big Island Dairy Goat Chevre “Bearnaise.”

Adjacent to Wong’s station, guest chef Hiroshi Fukui of Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas had people clamoring for his Kona Kampachi Carpaccio with Julienned Ginger, Tomato Concasse, Mrs. Cheng’s Tofu, and Truffled Ponzu.

Chef DK Kodama of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar had his mom Sandy manning the wok outside the KCC dining facility, where she monitored the preparation of the shrimp tempura for their Crispy Shrimp Tempura Hand Roll with Masago Aioli and Unagi Glaze offering.

Hawai’i’s Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya was stationed next to Morioka’s station, and was kept busy throughout the night as people lined up for a sampling of his specialty wine offerings.

“These are busy people, and we’re fortunate that they consented to be with us tonight,” Conrad Nonaka of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific told the audience.

“They’re here tonight, but on Tuesday, Kodama, Fukui, and Furuya will be on a plane with me for a working tour to Taipei.”

Nonaka said their journey is aimed at promoting not only culinary arts, but the University of Hawai’i and its programs as well.

Each of the offerings were paired with wine offerings with dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages also available from vendors like Lappert’s, Kauai Coffee Company, and Coca Cola Bottling.

Chef Mark Oyama and Matt Takata served as this year’s event co-chairmen, and organizers noted that the fifth annual event is already scheduled for April 13, 2007.

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