Culinary students shine during 15th Annual Hilo Culinary Classic

Pictured here are members of the three-person team that won Best in Show and First Place at the Culinary Classic for their entry in the cold platter buffet category, which featured an impressive variety of pâtés. The team members are, from right to left, Julius Nillo, Leizel Quiamas and Jerome Manaog.

HILO — The deadline was 8 a.m. on Friday, April 12.

Students from Hawai‘i Community College’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific – from both the East and West Hawai‘i campuses — worked all night to prepare their entries for this annual competition. They created an array of enticing displays, from celebration cakes to plated desserts and buffet platters, to beautifully cooked five-course gourmet meals displayed as art.

This team from West Hawai’i won a Gold Medal and a Second Place Trophy for their five-course menu gastronomique. From left to right are Sam Varron, Kennocha Berhane, Kyle Yamaguchi and Maya Mayers.

When the deadline passed, the race for personal satisfaction and trophies was over. The judges, Chef Jim O’Keefe, Chef Casey Halpirn of Café Pesto, and Chef Ernesto Limcaco of Y Hata and Co., stepped into the display room, and graded the students’ work.

As first-year students readied our heavy pupu buffet for the public at 11 a.m., the scores were tallied and the trophies and medals were awarded. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded by cumulative points.

“You should be quite proud of the work your students did for the Hilo Culinary Classic,” said Chef Casey Halpirn, a view affirmed by the other judges. “This year, the displays were very appealing. They were meal presentations I would like to eat! The selections made sense in terms of taste and looked well-prepared and well-seasoned.”

During a critique after the awards were distributed, the judges shared their knowledge and insight with the competitors.

And the winners?

  • East Hawai‘i students Leizel Quiamas, Jerome Manaog and Julius Nillo won Best of Show and First Place in the student competition for a buffet platter featuring their charcuterie skills.
  • West Hawai‘i students Maya Myers, Sam Varron, Kyle Yamaguchi and Kennocha Berhane won a Gold Medal and Second Place Trophy for their team’s five-course menu gastronimique.
  • There was a tie for the Third Place Trophy and Gold Medal between East Hawai‘i students Sunnye Newport (with a bread dough basket display filled with Braided Bread) and Ezekiel Ressig (with his sugar sculpture depicting “The Fall of Man”). They were both awarded Gold and a Third Place Trophy.
  • A Team Gold was also awarded to the East Hawai‘i team of Martina Laimana, Kim Visaya and Diana Mitchell for their five-course “Modern Luau” display.
  • A team of first-year culinary students, Maricar Calamaan and Jomar Padrigo, took Gold for their Filipino three-course luncheon. These hard-working first year students show the strength of the class just starting the two-year culinary program.
  • East Hawai‘i students Edmhar Dela Cruz and Krissel Lagua won individual Silver Medals for their three-course luncheon displays.
  • A team from East Hawai‘i with Kyle Nakamura, Clifton Kua, Ed Souza and Micah Saito won a Team Silver Medal for their five-course menu gastronomique. Also receiving Silver for their whimsical display of celebration cakes was the East Hawai‘i Team made up of Taylor Carriaga, Justina Frias, Tori Hiro, Sarah Ruesing and Reiko Yamamoto.
  • A West Hawai‘i team of Kai Dimond and Mark Molina also took home silver medals.
  • West Hawai‘i student Misha Protopopov won a silver medal for his carved fruit display.
  • In the alumni category, Lazareth Sye won an overall Division First Place trophy.

Professor and Chef Allan Okuda, Instructors Sandy Barr, Shawn Sumiki, Brian Hirata, Sandy Dubczak, Paul Heerlein and Hospitality Division Chair Jim Lightner were all proud of their students’ efforts, their creativity, and their ability to work under pressure – the name of the game in the hospitality industry!

The Hawai‘i Community College Culinary Arts Program’s teaching staff would like to thank Russel Hata, CEO of Y Hata Ltd.; Suisan Frozen Foods; Hilo Rice Mill; Hilo Products; Kulana Foods; and Don Smith of Far East Orchids for their generous support of the competition.

The students and faculty of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific School at Hawai’i Community College would like to thank all who have helped them through this presentation: family, friends, alumni, and community supporters of this program.






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