LCC students to stage another L'ulu

By Simplicio Paragas

Chefs are trained to adapt and react to adverse conditions. Broken ovens, cramped space, lack of ingredients, deal with it. But what happens when your signature fundraiser is dampened by a little rain? Bring out the squeegies and hope nobody slips, smiles Tommylynn Benavente, referring to last year’s slightly wet conditions during Leeward Community College’s culinary program’s annual fundraiser, L’ulu.

“In the restaurant business, you’ve got to be ready for anything and everything,” says Benavente, LCC’s culinary arts program coordinator. “You’ve got to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get done what needs to be done.”

Hawaii’s community colleges are the major artery for culinary education, and L’ulu gives Leeward student chefs an opportunity to raise funds, as well as to prove they can cook among the best of them.  While once overshadowed by its larger sister program at Kapiolani Community College, the LCC curriculum has in its own right gained a favorable reputation among international students, who come from as far as Turkey, Korea and Japan.

LCC students learn the proper way to truss a chicken.

Former student and Guam native Christian Panganiban chose LCC because he says he wanted the best training for his money. “I heard a lot about the program before coming here,” notes Panganiban, who hopes to one day work at top restaurants and eventually own his own place. “The chef instructors were great and I got 100 percent of my money’s worth.”

L’ulu not only gives Panganiban and his fellow up-and-coming chefs an opportunity to interact with the public, but it also gives them a chance to work with some top local chefs. Among them will be Chai’s Island Bistro’s Chai Chaowasaree, who was bestowed the privilege and honor of cooking at the James Beard House in New York City last month.

“It’s also good for the chefs because we get to see the next pool of talent that’s coming out of the program,” Chaowasaree says. “Hawaii’s culinary future is in the hands of these students so it’s important that we support them.”

Scheduled for Saturday, May 5, from 6 to 9 p.m., L’ulu will take place in and around the college’s signature restaurant The Pearl. Tickets to the grazing event are $100 before May 1 and $125 thereafter.

“You can say it’s an open house of sorts,” says chef instructor Ian Riseley. “This is a chance for us to showcase our facility and show our supporters where their money has been going toward all these years.”

Aside from raising money for the program, the event serves a secondary — but equally important — purpose: To open a dialogue about the future of food sustainability. Building on the momentum of last year’s “Chefs and Farmers Facing Future” forum, L’ulu will again pair participating chefs with island farmers, ranchers and fishermen.

“Last year marked the 20th anniversary of HRC (Hawaii Regional Cuisine) and we honored it by looking back at the movement and the chefs during the past 20 years,” Benavente explains. “Now we’re looking forward to the next 20 years and the future generation of chefs and farmers.”  •IO

L’ulu: Leeward Culinary Arts Gala

For information or sponsorship opportunities, contact: Fabi Castellano at 455-0300 or email: fabiola@hawaii.edu; Tommylynn Benavente at 455-0298 or email: tlbenave@hawaii.edu

Participating chefs include: Alan Wong (Alan Wong’s), Patrick Callarec (‘Ama‘Ama at Aulani), Jon Matsubara (Azure at Royal Hawaiian Hotel), Chai Chaowasaree (Chai’s Island Bistro), D.K Kodama (d.k’s Steak House), Mark Noguchi (He‘eia Pier General Store & Deli), Scott Higa (JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa), Mark Freiburg (Mariposa), Dean Okimoto (Nalo Farms), Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s), Ed Kenney (Town) and Russell Siu (3660 on the Rise). The LCC culinary program will be represented by chef instructors Ian Riseley, David Millen, Don Maruyama, Travis Kono, Linda Yamada and Michael Scully.

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