Healthy never looked or smelled so good. In November, culinary students in Kapiʻolani Community College’s advanced professional certificate program competed in the “Bring on the Bento” healthy bento competition.

Eight finalists put their best food forward.

  • T. Alana–Chicken loco moco
  • Mychelle Coon–Sweet and spicy vegetarian chili
  • Lee Ann Young–Gomoku rice and chicken bento
  • Ace Cabango–Teriyaki salmon bento with roasted kabocha and snap peas
  • Primo Mateo–Pastele stew and gandule rice
  • Jeongyeon Shim–Fiery spicy pork bowl
  • Cindy Nakabayashi–Orange chicken bowl
  • Nohea Banner–Vegan Indian/Thai fusion curry with brown rice, vegan naan bread
culinary student making stew
The winner Primo Mateo making pastele stew and gandule rice for the competition.

“Sometimes people think that healthy food tastes junk, and so I think the dishes the students created that have less than 10 grams of fat per serving–people will realize that healthy food actually tastes good,” said Kapiʻolani CC Culinary Arts Instructor Lauren Tamamoto.

7-Eleven Hawaiʻi partnered with Kapiʻolani Community College to develop a better-for-you bento or bowl for potential sale at all 7-Eleven Hawaiʻi locations for a limited time in 2019.

“7-Eleven wants to be everybody’s favorite neighborhood store,” said Greg Hanna, 7-Eleven Hawaiʻi president and CEO. “If we can bring the food from a Hawaiʻi student into our stores, I think it will be great for the community.”

The contestants’ dishes had to contain at least two locally grown ingredients and have no more than 700 calories. The bentos or bowls also had to be able to withstand four hours under a heat lamp.

Primo Mateo’s pastele stew and gandule rice took first place honors and a $1,000 prize, with Mychelle Coon’s sweet and spicy vegetarian chili a close second. Ace Cabango took third place with his teriyaki salmon bento with roasted kabocha and snap peas.

“I am very excited. As a young kid we always used to go 7-Eleven,” said Mateo. “It’s going to be fun seeing everyone going in there and recognizing my dish and being able to enjoy it.”

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

culinary students smiling for group shot
Kapiʻolani CC culinary students in bento competition.