What the Heck?
KCC success story tastes sweet for all
Show It Anyway:
The Louis Vuitton Hawai'i International Film Festival kicks off Thursday. Executive Director Chuck Boller looks calm for a man who's about to screen 241 films for nearly 70,000 viewers. "It seems to be going smoothly this year, but you never know," he says. "One year we unpacked a film that arrived late. Instead of the movie we expected, it was a Mexican porn flick."
IZ Lives: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" pops up in the wildest places. It shows up in the soundtrack for "Getting Dressed," a British commercial for a deodorant called Lynx. The spot won a Gold Lion at the Cannes Film Festival. Search the Web for it. It's seriously amusing, and you'll never see anything like it on American TV.
Idolettes: Jasmine Trias did better than Camile Velasco on "American Idol." So why's Velasco's "Keep Me Hanging On" getting better local air play than Trias' tunes? Chalk it up to lingering bitterness among island radio jocks, who feel Jasmine shined them on when riding high.
Away Game: Last weekend ex-banking and tourism exec Rick Humphreys chaired a major fund-raiser at Murphy's for the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii. It was a success, but he wasn't there. He was in San Francisco, where he flies for every 49ers home game. Fortunately, wife Mina is even more nuts about football than he is, he says. "Otherwise, I'd never get away with it."
Bar Buzz: The King of Cocktails flew into Honolulu this weekend. International cocktail consultant Dale DeGroff gives two of what he calls "recreational seminars" at the Halekulani this week -- one on rum drinks, the other on champagne cocktails. People are still buzzing about his August martini seminar.
Pooh on Birthdays: At Rumours, Toni "T.C." Chun of Restaurants Unlimited threw a surprise 31st birthday party for boyfriend Justin Cruz, deejay for 93.1 The Zone. "My real party was the night before at the Loggins & Messina concert," says Cruz. "I got to hear 'House at Pooh Corner.' I can die happy."
Be True to Your School: There's no educational program in the state system more successful than the culinary school at Kapiolani Community College. Alumni include Sam Choy, Russell Siu and Alan Wong.
But the culinary program lives hand to mouth. Chronically underfunded, it makes its living by running food service at KCC, including the cafeteria. If it can't turn a profit, it comes up short.
Enter Kelvin Ro. Ro stays on as faculty at KCC despite the success of his own Diamond Head Market and Grill.
Ro's main contribution: He's one of the few people in the state system with the panache and social connections to pull off a major fund-raiser.
With the help of friends like Betty Wo, Blossom Tyau, Joan Bellinger, Dr. Lawrence Tseu, Edward and Peggy Eu, he's put together Ho'okipa. With its $125 tickets and $5,000 and $10,000 VIP tables, Ho'okipa has raised $750,000 over the last five years.
"Usually, nobody gives money to a public school -- maybe car washes and cookie sales," says Ro. "This school's open to everyone, and we still get this kind of support."
Held in the Monarch Room and on the lawn at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Ho'okipa could easily get name chefs to staff food stations. Instead, the students cook.
So how does it feel to be 19 years old, a year or so out of high school, and find yourself cooking for the mayor, the lieutenant governor and heavyweights of Honolulu society?
"At first, oh wow, we were all stressing out," says Jeffrey Cenido, 19, of Kaimuki, part of a team of 15 first-year students whipping up 500 seafood appetizers. "Once people tasted our stuff and liked it, we settled down."
Cenido's class worked on their dish for eight weeks. Class starts at 7 a.m. If you're not there, the door's locked. Leilani Estrella, 24, gets up at 4:30 a.m. in Waianae. Shawna Lei Luke, 24, gets up at 4 a.m. in Mililani. "We like to get there by 6 a.m. to have an extra hour to prep," says Estrella.
"We can't even bring coffee to wake up. Coffee throws off your palate, so we can only drink water," adds Adina Guest, 19, who came from California to study cooking at KCC.
Guest shows off the blisters on her hand. "We shucked 500 oysters tonight." Estrella nicked herself with an oyster knife. "Doesn't matter. We got it done," she says.
Across the lawn, Lee Ann Luga, 21, from Waipio, dished up slices of chilled Hamakua mushroom terrine. She had it easy, she says, unlike her friend Trenton Villagomez, 20, who spent the night grilling scallops. "He was sweating bullets."
Asked if I should sample her terrine, she broke into a smile. "At your own risk," she said. "We're first-year students."
John Heckathorn's radio show, Heckathorn's Hot Plate, simulcasts weekday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. on SportsRadio1420 and sister station 1080 AM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org