Culinary student reflects on experience at 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration

After a long, exciting, yet crazy night I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part in this year’s 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration. There were so many talented, successful chefs at the convention. It was an awesome time to learn and absorb their passion for food.

My classmates and I decided to work with Chef Royden Ellamar, a Hawai’i Community College Graduate from the Hilo Campus. He is now the Executive Chef at Sensi’s in the Bellagio at Las Vegas. The “Kona Crew” flew over from Hilo, and one Kapi’olani Community College student.

For the dish Chef Royden put together we served a Pork Cheek. The cheek had been previously cooked for 6 hours and then souvi’d in duck fat. With the cheek we served a simple risotto, and a kimchee patis mixture, topped off with Red Eye gravy and a few garnishes. As chef Royden was explaining his dish to us I honestly had some doubts. I’m not a big fan of kimchee or patis, and I had never seen a pork cheek. Quite Honestly I didn’t even know pigs had cheeks. And I had never heard of Red Eye gravy. So for me this was a new door to be opened.

As he prepared a sample plate for us to try I was excited to see how all of these flavors would blend together. I found that the calm creaminess of the risotto complimented the bold flavors coming from the cheek and the kimchee. It was very good, and I liked the dish! Even though I personally don’t believe I could have eaten a whole plate of this, as an appetizer it was very ono and it helped me to broaden my palette as a chef, which is a very vital component if I plan to succeed in this industry.

As the guests began to flood in, the time also began to fly by. We plated the dishes and made fresh risotto for the next 3 hours. Even though there were many, many guests I have gotten used to the flood of people and everything ran very smoothly. Once we had served all of our guests and cleaned up we were allowed to taste some of the other dishes that were presented at the convention. I really liked Chef Scot Hiraishi’s plate. He prepared a Big Island beef taco, which was killer!

All in all I believe this was an awesome experience and If there is ever an opportunity like this again I would love to go! Thank you to Chef Betty Saiki for taking us to the convention, Chef Royden for taking us under his wing for the night, and Mahalo to the Hawaii Community College in West Hawai’i for offering us this amazing experience for free. It was a lot of fun!

Jessica Lloyd


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