KCC culinary students learn from taste tests

PUHI — “I can really taste the difference,” one of the Kaua‘i Community College culinary arts students said while savoring the sampling of beef products yesterday.

That student was one of more than 30 KCC culinary arts students who participated in a half-day culinary workshop that brought together talents of several professionals in the beef industry.

Hale ‘Aina ‘Ohana, a nonprofit culinary organization, coordinated the workshop that brought in several off-island guests including chef Ernesto Limcaco, corporate chef for Y.Hata, Cal Oshiro, director, Center of Plate & Product Development for Y.Hata, and Jay Kirschner, of Cargill Meat Solutions in Colorado.

These leaders were joined by Lincoln Ching of the University of Hawai‘i Cooperative Extension Service and through their efforts, students were given a hands-on lesson on beef from farm-to-kitchen.

That workshop culminated with a tasting where students could compare grain-fed beef to grass-fed, island-produced beef.

“Normally, we send some of the students to O‘ahu when they have these types of workshops,” said chef Mark Oyama, one of the KCC culinary arts instructors. “But the high cost of traveling makes it impossible for all students to get the benefit of workshops outside of Kaua‘i.”

The hands-on workshop at the KCC dining facility is part of Center-of-the-Plate Workshops sponsored by Hale ‘Aina ‘Ohana, said Hayley Matson-Mathes. The Monday workshop was the second for KCC.

“Last year, the students were treated to a demonstration by Chef Mavro, and this year, with the help of Kojima Store (in Kapa‘a) who provided the local beef, we have chef Ernesto and the Excel Sterling Silver Beef product where students can actually compare local grass-fed beef to grain-fed beef,” Mathes said.

She added that Ching’s portion dealt with the costs and quality control in raising beef for the culinary trade and through his presentation, students could learn more about costing and pricing dishes.

“We started doing these off-island workshops last year,” Oshiro said. “So far, we’ve been to the Big Island, Maui and Kaua‘i. We’ve also been doing workshops for some of the O‘ahu colleges, but there are still places we haven’t been to yet.”

As director for Center of Plate and Product Development, Oshiro’s knowledge would be invaluable early in the culinary students’ year when they learn about cost analysis,” said Billy Gibson, another of the KCC culinary arts instructors.

“We want to give the students the opportunity to have hands-on experience with premium ingredients,” said Conrad Nonaka, a member of the Hale ‘Aina ‘Ohana board and the director of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. “The workshops offer authentic experiences and practical advice from culinary professionals outside of the college that is vital learning exposure in preparing students for the industry.”

Gibson agreed, noting the high cost of ingredients like the beef being used in the Monday workshop, make it prohibitive in the classroom until someone like Y. Hata, Kojima and Hale ‘Aina ‘Ohana step to the plate.

“The opportunity to partner with Y. Hata on a center-of-the-plate workshop is overwhelmingly positive,” said Tom Mullen, chair of the Hale ‘Aina ‘Ohana. “Our goal is to provide cutting-edge opportunities to culinary instructors and students and the support from great chefs and companies makes our mission possible. We recognize the critical role the culinary industry plays in our economy.”

Limcaco, as a corporate chef, is in charge of the Y. Hata kitchen that is used by culinary professionals in testing, developing and analyzing menus.

During his travels as part of the center-of-the-plate workshops, he said the KCC facilities are state of the art, and commends the community on the great support it demonstrates for the KCC culinary arts program.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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