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Team Hawaiʻi, Kapiʻolani Community College’s 2019 culinary competition team, will go for the gold at the Cook. Craft. Create. American Culinary Federation (ACF) National Convention and Show—an elite collegiate culinary championship. They are one of six teams (five regional, one military) competing in the national championships in Orlando, Florida, on August 6. The team earned a spot after winning a gold medal and the 2019 Wild Card at the ACF Western Regional Student Competition.

Team Hawaiʻi held a timed practice session on July 17, at the Culinary Institute of the Pacific to prepare for the competition in between classes and working. Team Hawaiʻi is made up of student chefs Greg Gamayo Jr., Ethan Momohara, Ritchie Wong, Kainoa Reloza and Xiaoling Cheng, who are led by chef instructors Jason Peel and David Brown.

Smoked beets with avocado, Asian pear, basil oil and barbecue vinaigrette

Each team will have to prepare a four-course menu, with 110 minutes to prep, cook, plate and serve all dishes to the judges. The teams will be judged on presentation, flavor, nutritional value, cooking technique, teamwork, sanitation and timing.

Team Hawaiʻi started down the road to nationals last year, exploring their flavor profiles, brainstorming what they wanted to cook that would best represent themselves and Hawaiʻi, and refining their menu items along the way.

“It’s a lot of tasting, a lot of recipe testing. I know for me personally, I’ve made about 7 different types of ice cream just to get it right,” said Reloza, Kapiʻolani CC Team Hawaiʻi student chef.

He added, “The school teaches you so many techniques and flavor pairings. It also teaches you timing and organizational skills that are necessary for the competition, as well as your life to come.”

Crediting their camaraderie and how well they work together as an advantage, the Kapiʻolani team is hungry to bring home the gold. The team last won a national gold medal in 2009 and silver medals in 2013 and 2017.

“It feels like you’re competing for everyone and then yourself, first representing your team, the college, Hawaiʻi. We really want to showcase all the great food and culture that Hawaiʻi has to offer,” said Gamayo, Kapiʻolani CC Team Hawaiʻi student chef.

“We want to be recognized nationally, as not only a great culinary school, but as a culinary destination as well. We have so many great chefs here in Hawaiʻi, and we want everyone to know that Kapiʻolani Community College is producing the future chefs to come,” said Peel.

To support Team Hawaiʻi go to the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation website.

Learn more about UH‘s culinary programs.

Team Hawaiʻi from left Kainoa Reloza, Ethan Momohara, Greg Gamayo, Jr., Xiaoling Cheng and Ritchie Wong.
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