Team Hawaiʻi won the gold medal the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) regional competition in Joliet, Illinois, which qualifies them to compete in the national ACF competition in Orlando, Florida, July 9–13, 2017. Team Hawaiʻi is comprised of five Kapiʻolani Community College student chefs plus one alternate.
Chef-instructor Alan Tsuchiyama, one of the team coaches said, “The team won the gold medal with a score of 94.83 points out of 100 points. In the world of ACF judging, this is a very good score. The students were great in the kitchen and their work was admired by many.”
Born in Japan, David came to Hawaiʻi when he was 10. It was his culinary teacher in high school that recognized his talent in cooking, which made it an easy choice for him to pursue a career in culinary arts.
David is disciplined. He sees the importance of having a mentor and feels that he has learned valuable lessons from his chef-instructors that cannot be taught in the classroom. He believes they have a passion for what they do, which is the secret ingredient in being successful. David appreciates that teamwork brings a natural feel of belonging to a family.
Richard G. Lee
Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Lee floundered after high school but developed a keen interest in watching cooking shows. He was fascinated by the artistry in the kitchen.
As the team alternate Lee needs to know what everyone is doing should he have to substitute. He said the hours of a student-chef are long and hard, but he enjoys what he is doing and feels he has found his niche in life. Lee said the most rewarding part of being on the team is “the sense of family and belonging that makes the hard work ok.”
Lim was born in the Philippines and lived in Canada and Japan before moving to Hawaiʻi where she has lived for about 4 years. Her mother was a waitress, and her father owned a baking supply business in the Philippines. Lim’s grandpa is the cook in the family, and she knew she was destined for a culinary career.
Wanting to enroll a culinary school, Lim wrote names of schools on pieces of paper and randomly selected. She drew Kapiʻolani CC twice. Lim says that Kapiʻolani CC is her family—she enjoys the diversity of students and her excellent and supportive instructors. Her advice to anyone still searching for a career is to “do something you love and surround yourself with people who share the same passion as you.”
Qihao (Sam) Tan
Originally from China, Tan has been in Hawaiʻi only three years and initially needed to take classes in English at Kapiʻolani CC. Tan wanted to study culinary arts but his school in China did not offer a curriculum for it, only hands-on application and technique courses were available.
Tan is especially keen in pastry arts, and his goal is to own his own patisserie. At Kapiʻolani CC Tan developed a sense of belonging that he didn’t realize was possible. He feels the strength of the team is that they laugh and cry together and look out for one another. He says that the chef-instructors bring out the best in everyone.
Uyehara’s interest in high school was chemistry and he had planned on becoming a teacher. During a hiatus from school he developed a passion for cooking. Uyehara cooks at home, helps his ailing father and still eventually wants to teach.
Uyehara feels the amazing ingredient in Team Hawaiʻi is how faculty mentors—Chefs Alan Tsuchiyama, David Brown and lead instructor Jason Peel have made the entire culinary experience awesome for everyone. He also learned how to have fun while working. Uyehara knows he is acquiring lifelong relationships just by being a member of an extraordinary team.
Christian Rae Wong
Wong radiates joy and confidence in what she does. She enjoys cooking for her four siblings and an extended family of 14. She was mostly home-schooled, finishing her last year in a private school. Wong completed her culinary degree at Kapiʻolani CC in December 2016 and hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dietetics.
Although self-disciplined, she admits she couldn’t have learned all the technical skills in the kitchen on her own. The chef-instructors are tough on detail, prompting each member to work harder, and the drill and performance paid off in the end. For Wong, passion for what she does gets her through the tough spots.
Chef Jason Peel, Lead Instructor
Chef Peel leads with his heart, and his students see him as their champion, mentor and sometimes big brother. Peel pushes hard when he must, but his students trust his discipline and his desire for achievement, if not perfection. Peel is all about developing individuality and breaking barriers to give students a chance to speak openly, honestly and confidently.
—By Louise Yamamoto