HawCC to host 16th Annual Hilo Culinary Classic on April 4th

Hawai‘i CC students pose with their trophies and culinary creations at last year’s Hilo Culinary Classic. 

HILO — The 16th Annual Hilo Culinary Classic is set for Friday, April 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it promises to be the largest display of culinary technical skill, creativity and knowledge since the Hawai‘i Community College Culinary Arts Program began the food competition 16 years ago. (For a look inside last year’s competition, view this video). 

Entries created by second-year Culinary Arts students from Hawai‘i CC will be on display, along with those of adventurous first-year student chefs. Culinary Arts graduates and professionals will square off in the guest competition.

The culinary displays will run the gamut from savory multi-course meals, inventive desserts, hors d’oeuvres, celebration cakes for that special event and edible art pieces.

The event will feature food to eat as well as food meant exclusively for viewing as first-year Hawai‘i CC students present a heavy pupu buffet. Foodies, families of student chefs, and all members of the public are invited to savor a tasty feast while enjoying the technical heights Hawai‘i CC culinary students have reached.

The Hilo Culinary Classic is large this year because of recent growth of Hawai‘i CC’s Culinary Arts Program. More students, more instructors and more equipment mean a richer program and a more robust competition.

The Hilo Culinary Classic is the capstone project for culinary students and is the culmination of their studies.  They begin the culinary program as first-year students learning basic cooking techniques, knife skills, and sanitation, and they practice those skills by running the Manono Campus cafeteria, which is open to the public.

Students then advance to the on-campus restaurants, the ‘Ohana Corner Café and Bamboo Hale, where they spend their third and fourth semesters learning restaurant management, international cuisine, timing, and advanced cooking techniques. Students also take field trips to farms, orchards, aquaculture operations and other producers where they learn about island products and create lasting bonds with farmers.

The Hawai‘i CC Culinary Arts Program is an American Culinary Federation Accredited College, which follows its teaching competency and standards. Students graduating from our program are hired at a higher standard throughout the United States.

Professor and Chef Allan Okuda said the competition format “really tests the knowledge and skills of our students.”

“It demands not only correct technical knowledge, but students must also execute these techniques perfectly,” Okuda said.

Okuda has set high standards for the show, which gives each student the opportunity to prepare their most elegant, innovative and technically challenging creations.

“The students are working very hard to showcase their talents in the culinary arts,” said Okuda. “To become successful, these students must sacrifice their time and their efforts.”

The students have the guidance of a growing instructional staff: assistant professor Sandy Rivera, lecturers Brian Hirata and Shawn Sumiki, and kitchen manager Sandy Dubczak.

A team of accomplished chefs will judge the entries in accordance with American Culinary Federation rules.

Captain of the team and returning judge, Jim O’Keefe, formerly of O’Keefe and Sons Bakery, will bring his years of knowledge and practice in the culinary realm to the table.  Chef Ernesto Limcaco, Corporate Executive chef for Y Hata Ltd., is also a returning judge. Chef Casey Halpern, of the venerable Café Pesto and a long-time supporter of the Hawai‘i CC Culinary Arts Program, rounds out the panel of judges.

The student displays will be evaluated on presentation, nutritional balance, thematic balance, workmanship, practicality, creativity and composition. Awards will be presented during the public exposition.

The event takes place at the Hawai‘i CC cafeteria in Hilo. Tickets are $9.50, and are available at the Hawai‘i CC Cafeteria, Bamboo Hale and from culinary students on campus. Tickets will also be available at the door. Call 934-2559 for more information.

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