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culinary student putting pie in box
(Photo credit: UH Maui College Culinary Arts Program)

More than 200 mini pumpkin pies were surprise gifts for Maui seniors in November through a collaboration between University of Hawaiʻi Maui College culinary students and the county’s Kaunoa Senior Services. The delicious desserts spurred a tear-inducing thank you letter from Kaunoa’s Grace De Silva.

De Silva wrote, “The pies were made with such care and provided so much more than a tasty treat to go along with their holiday meal. They knew that somewhere out there was a student who had them in mind while baking this pie, and agencies collaborated to make something special just for them. All morning long, I received call after call. Shaky with emotion, voices of gratitude for thinking of them.”

mini cakes
(Photo credit: UH Maui College Culinary Arts Program)

The request to UH Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana for the sweet treat came at a busy time as Culinary Arts Program Director and Assistant Professor Teresa “Cheech” Shurilla was already in the throes of baking more than 300 pies and cheesecakes for an annual program fundraiser.

Shurilla was also teaching a baking fundamentals class, and incorporated the mini pie production into her coursework. Some of her more advanced pastry students also assisted with baking instruction, finishing boxes and delivering the pies to Kaunoa.

The veteran pastry chef admits she cried when she found out about De Silva’s thank you letter.

“It was hard in the middle, because we were also doing a fundraiser at the same time,” Shurilla said. “When you get a letter like that, it reinforces what you are doing for the community. I would do it again in a minute, no matter how busy we are.”

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culinary students carrying boxes
From left, UH Maui College culinary students Karla Mae Madariaga, Sheila Marie Simon, Charlene Ramos and Shaina Marie Simon, and Culinary Arts Program Director Teresa “Cheech” Shurilla (Photo credit: UH Maui College Culinary Arts Program)
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