PUHI — Friday night marked Chef Mark Oyama’s 15th and final Culinary Institute of the Pacific Spring Gourmet Gala at Kauai Community College, as well as the 15th time Chef Alan Wong headlined the event.
But, as Wanda Shibata of the Friends of Kauai Community College told one guest, “This is not the time to talk about ‘final.’ Tonight, we enjoy.”
Friday night, Wong was buried amid his team from Alan Wong’s Honolulu, The Pineapple Room and Alan Wong’s Shanghai, sprinkled with student helpers from the KCC culinary arts program, all working toward keeping the line of diners moving.
“Chef Alan Wong and his team have headlined our event for 15 years,” Chef Mark Oyama wrote in the program. Oyama is assistant professor of the KCC culinary arts program and co-chair with Matt Takata of the gala. “Words cannot express how thankful we are for all of you guests, chefs, hotels, restaurants, wine and beverage vendors, sponsors and volunteers. It has been an honor to be the recipients of Chef Alan’s time and talents.”
“We’ve been here every single year from the first one,” said Robin Clark and Mary MacKiernan. “Kudos to Mark Oyama for putting together such a fine event. We heard this is his last event. We hope this is not the last one. Next year, it’ll be different because, hopefully, someone else will take over, but it will be just as good.”
Clark and MacKiernan said their favorite chef was Chef Vikram Garg, who has joined Wong in headlining the event for the past seven years. The headliner chefs were joined by other well-known culinary professionals, including Chai “Chef Chai” Chaowasaree, DK Kodama of Sensei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, d.k. Steak House, & Vino, and Chef George “Chef Mavro” Mavrothalassistis.
The evening was enhanced by music from Living Large and protected from the evening rain by a sea of tents to accommodate the overflowing dining facility.
The evening is described by KCC Chancellor Helen Cox as “one of Kauai’s must-attend events of the year.”
Chef Guy Higa of the Kauai Marriott Resort, who has been cooking at the event for the past 15 years, was joined this year by Paul Toner, the resort’s general manager.
“I’ve got to be outside,” Higa said. “We need to be cooking. I told Mark that we’ll be here when he needs help with other fundraisers helping the community. We will be helping the veterans with their Veterans Day event, and The Salvation Army when it celebrates its 120th anniversary.”
Proceeds from the gala go toward helping culinary arts students.
“When we started the Spring Gourmet Gala in 2003, it was our greatest hope to raise funds to buy kitchen and classroom supplies as well as fund student scholarships,” Oyama said. “In 15 years, and because of you, the funds raised from the annual Spring Gourmet Gala helped us do more than we expected, including building a new kitchen, purchasing computers, paying for student certifications, and much more.”