The culinary program at Kauaʻi Community College is all business.
“It’s like a crash course in learning, in cooking, everything—all aspects of cooking and it’s really good,” said culinary student Joshua Planas.
“I thought I would have to learn a bunch of boring stuff but by the second day we were already in the kitchen cooking,” agreed fellow culinary student Gabrielle Clements.
The Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kauaʻi CC is not just teaching students how to cook.
“We teach them to be humble,” said Martina Hilldorfer, the program coordinator and chef instructor. “We teach them to be patient, we teach them to cook with passion from their heart, we teach them the math that they will need in the industry to be successful.”
There’s a maximum of 55 students in the program at any given time, working towards a two-year associate degree in applied science.
“You don’t get an A, B, C or D in flipping an egg,” said Hildorfer. “You either do it, and pass, or you can’t.”
The program features a brand new, $2.3 million, state-of-the-art kitchen and regularly brings in Hawaiʻi’s top chefs like Chef George “Mavro” Mavrothalassitis, and food industry experts, for cooking and food demonstrations.
“Everybody who can give the students some bit of knowledge, we love to network with them and they love to work with our students,” said Hildorfer.
Along with basic college courses, the first year of the culinary program covers topics like the fundamentals of cookery, safety and sanitation and bakery. In the second year, the subjects include continental cuisine, Asian cuisine and garde manger.
“I enjoy the instructors,” said Planas. “They’re cool and they’re like witty but they are also very smart and they’re very knowledge about the field.”
“It’s kind of an honor to learn from them and have hands on experience,” said Clements.
The program ends with an eight-week long project where the students design their own restaurants.
“They create their own menus, they cost it out, they do all the staffing, they serve the guests,” said Hildorfer. “We are open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the school year.”
The ultimate goal is to make sure each student has the knowledgable and skills to make their culinary dreams come true.
“Hopefully, I want to be overseas,” said Planas as he speculated about his future with an eager smile. “Maybe Japan.”
Clements had a different vision.
“I hope to own my own breakfast and lunch and coffee shop. A place with art, where people feel inspired and their bellies are full and happy.”