Kaua'i CC faculty inducted into Hall of Fame

Kauaʻi Community College
Cammie Matsumoto, (808) 245-8280
Dir.Comm Relations & Spec Proj, Chancellor's Office
Posted: Sep 30, 2015

Chef faculty Mark Oyama instructs his students in a culinary arts class.
Chef faculty Mark Oyama instructs his students in a culinary arts class.

LIHUE—Kauaʻi’s own Mark Oyama, Kauaʻi Community College chef instructor and owner of  everyone’s favorites Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors Catering, was among Hawaiʻi’s finest restaurateurs and food industry leaders inducted into the 9th annual Hawai'i Restaurant Association (HRA) Hall of Fame on September 21 in Honolulu. Inductees are chosen for their “demonstrated dedication and commitment to the growth of the restaurant and food service industry in Hawaiʻi, contributions to the enhancement of its quality and image, and demonstrated service through outreach,” according to HRA. Clearly an excellent fit with Oyama, who has been a key leader in the business since graduating with a degree in Culinary Arts from Kapiʻolani CC on O'ahu. Immediately upon graduating, he taught that summer in various cities in China, including Xiʻan, Hangzhou and Shanghai. He held chef positions in Alaska, Connecticut, Oʻahu and the Big Island before accepting a faculty position in the Culinary Arts Program at Kauaʻi CC in 1992.

New to Kauaʻi CC, Oyama was soon thrust into the role of managing the kitchen while the college served as a major shelter after Hurricane Iniki ravaged the island on September 11. In a month, over 90,000 meals were prepared for those who sought refuge at the College. During that first year, Oyama also mentored students who entered the state-wide culinary competition, Culinary Arts & Suppliers Exhibition, on Oʻahu, where they won first place and brought home the Chancellor’s Trophy. As a judge of the competition, his mentor, Kapiʻolani CC chef instructor, Ernst Hiltbrandt, witnessed Oyama’s successful utilization of what he learned as a student in teaching his own students.  Oyama has led Kauaʻi CC students to receive numerous gold and silver medals  in other competitions.

Oyama teaches students that food is connected to every emotion and life occasion, ranging from joyous to sorrowful. It must be of the highest level of quality and fit the occasion. His goal in every course is to teach the mastery of techniques, methods and flavors.  The key is to answer to “Why?” at every level of culinary arts. “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake; cooking is a lot of trial and error,” is Oyama’s advice to all students because he wants them to build confidence.

Oyama also works with industry partners on island, in other states and across the islands to hire Kauaʻi CC graduates. He is to be credited for initiating and orchestrating, for the past 13 years, the annual Kauaʻi CC Spring Gourmet Gala, a food and wine pairing event, which has become the premier, sold-out event of the year on island. And when he’s not in the kitchen or classroom, Oyama serves on over seven boards including the Kauaʻi Mayor’s Ag Advisory Board, Kauaʻi Economic Development Food & Ag Council,  Community Advisory Committee charged with updating Kauaʻi’s General Plan; Na Koa Booster Club; Big Brothers & Sisters of Kauaʻi; Pacific Island Fisheries; and Hawaiʻi Fisherman’s Alliance for Conservation & Tradition.

Oyama joins a diversely accomplished group of HRA Hall of Famers including chefs Alan Wong, Ed Kenney, and Beth Ann Nishijima; wine and spirits business owners Warren Shon and the Tamura family; owners of longtime eateries, Roy and Dora Hayashi of Like Like Drive Inn on Oʻahu and Gerard Reversade of Gerard’s on Maui; and retired faculty member of Kapiʻolani CC, Gladys Sato.

Tying it all back to and honoring the richness of teaching and learning, proceeds from the HRA Hall of Fame annual event benefits culinary students statewide through the HRA Scholarship Program at the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges.