Team Hawaii no ka oi


POSTED: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's a golden time for Team Hawaii, the Kapiolani Community College culinary team that took top honors in the American Culinary Federation's national student championship.

The six-student team came in as a dark horse in its first appearance at the prestigious contest but squeaked out a narrow victory over the favored Schoolcraft College of Michigan, winners of the competition in 2003, by .09 of a point.

“;Hawaii is now more than just a place to visit,”; said KCC associate professor Alan Tsuchiyama, who served as coach. “;We can also talk and cook fine food and provide great opportunities for our students.”;

“;I think, overall, (the team's) performance in the kitchen was wonderful,”; said judge Christopher Tanner, instructor at Schenectady Community College in Schenectady, N.Y., by e-mail. “;Each individual really had a passion for what they were working on, whether they were fabricating fish or working with fruit and vegetables. They all worked with a purpose, quickly and to perfection.

“;The courses had a Hawaiian theme to them, and in my eyes, it is important for your food to have a theme,”; he continued. “;When I looked at the dish — from the fish they chose to the way it was cooked — it brought you to Hawaii.”;

Managed by KCC professor and chef Frank Leake, team members are Anna Hirano, Keaka Lee, Tate Nakano-Edwards, Rena Suzuki, Ken Yi and team captain San Shoppell.

“;There was ... a high degree of difficulty to our menu,”; Nakano-Edwards said. “;Our plates had a ton of components and showed we were willing to push the envelope.”;

Yi, who served as student team manager, said he thought “;the winning factor was that the team had the most fun during the competition. It showed how well we worked together and that we knew our food.”;

Conrad Nonaka, director of the University of Hawaii Culinary Institute of the Pacific, was in Washington, D.C., working with Alan Wong on President Obama's congressional luau when Tsuchiyama called him with the good news.

“;This victory sets the tone for the need for advanced culinary training here in Hawaii,”; he said. “;To achieve what these students have done is amazing. We were fortunate to get the endowment money to bring in high-quality instructor-chefs such as Rene Marquis and Hartmut Handke — both certified ACF culinary judges themselves — to help coach the team beforehand.”;

Nora Galdiano, a 1992 alumnus of the KCC program and now executive sous-chef at Isleworth Golf and Country Club near Orlando, helped Team Hawaii with food, lodging and needed cooking equipment. While dining at the competition, Galdiano said one visiting chef said that the Hawaii menu was of such high quality that it could've easily cost $125.

“;The flavors, textures and colors were well balanced,”; she said in agreement. “;I wanted more!”;

“;We were there to create memories,”; Lee said. “;To win this shows the hard work we did coming into the competition, and it's just a taste of what's to come from Hawaii in the future.”;




Winning menu


The national championship-worthy lineup:


» Big Island Trio, appetizer: Poached farm-raised Big Island butterfish on a bed of sauteed spinach, fennel and red onion chutney, and a passion-orange, guava sauce; kiawe-apple smoked wild-caught Hawaiian opah sprinkled with Kilauea black sea salt, garnished with a pea sprout, accompanied by creamed corn and peas with chili oil; and grilled Kona kampachi served with a cucumber-avocado relish, tomato tapenade and citrus beurre blanc


» Nalo Medley, salad: Baby Nalo greens and asparagus salad with a lemon-anchovy vinaigrette; blue cheese mousse served on tomato aspic with an herbed Parmesan crisp; and golden and red beets, marinated daikon, candied walnuts, fried goat cheese sphere and Granny Smith apple pesto


» Pan-Pacific Duckling Melange, entree: Marinated, sauteed duck breast served with a Hawaiian poha berry sauce and a garnish of fried leeks; duck sausage; braised hoisin duck wrapped in cabbage and garnished with cracklings; and a seared foie gras and Ali'i mushroom, potatoes au gratin, sauteed baby zucchini and patty pan squash, and mango salsa


» Tastes of the Aloha State, dessert: Raspberry and chocolate chiboust terrine with a Kona coffee tuile, served with lilikoi and berry sauces, braised Maui pineapple on a macadamia nut cookie, coconut sorbet served in a orange tuile cup; and macerated fruits and a dusted raspberry