They first work behind the scenes, preparing food for their school’s culinary stations before even coming to Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. After arriving, they attend a pasture-raised, beef-related seminar and then observe and help serve guests at the Cooking Pasture-Raised Beef 101 demo. After that, they assist chefs at culinary stations and serve Taste attendees from 6-8 p.m.
Taste of the Hawaiian Range couldn’t happen without the participation of the Hawaii Community College culinary students from both Hilo and Kona.
In fact, the event is staged, in part, for these future culinarians so they can learn the merits of pasture-raised beef…along with Taste attendees and participating chefs.
In addition to learning about locally produced food at educational presentations, students experience first-hand how to work with different cuts of meat and industry professionals. They make connections with possible future employers and local food producers, sampling their produce and value-added products at the event.
For 2015, 63 collegiate culinary students participated, eight graduates and seven instructors. Kona students were assigned beef flank steak while Hilo was challenged with preparing beef tongue.
“We prepared two dishes with the flank steak,” shared Paul Heerlein, assistant professor/coordinator of culinary arts at Kona’s University of Hawaii-Palamanui. “The first-year group did a Spanish-style, grilled flank steak salad as they are studying European cuisine and my second-year group did a play on a Vietnamese beef sandwich as we’re studying Asian food preparation.”
West Hawai‘i Students Share Experiences
Jolynn Len, a student at UH-Palamanui, said her second-year class “tasted and experimented” with two different preparations before voting to use an Asian-style lemongrass marinade with picked vegetables and chili pepper aioli.
“I was in charge of adjusting the recipe to serve up to 800-bite-size servings and volunteered to decorate our event presentation table,” shared the West Hawai‘i student.
The day before the event, students gathered at the new Mai’s Grille in Waikoloa to help Chef Allen Hess with his Taste culinary offering. “I got to fabricate and grind beef shoulder,” recalls Len.
During Taste, Len was assigned to work with Chef Jay at 12th Avenue Grill, who offered boneless oxtail served with sautéed local ‘Ali‘i Mushrooms, hearts of palm and fennel. “It was topped off with a rich consommé,” Len elaborated. “It was delicious and fun to plate.”
Classmate Tomi Salinger helped staff UH-Palamanui’s culinary station and adds, “Before Taste we got to hear a lecture from Chef Peter Merriman and we also got to watch a cooking demo from Chef Roy Yamaguchi. After that I helped finish cooking off the steak in the Hilton’s kitchen before service. Once service started, there were swarms of people constantly coming, which made two hours go by in what felt like an hour…. All in all, it was a great experience for me and I always enjoy seeing the real world perspective of the restaurant industry.”
East Hawai’i Instructor Details Participation
Allan Okuda, culinary arts program professor and coordinator of Hawai‘i Community College in Hilo said he recruited HawCC graduates to staff the school’s culinary station so all current students could experience working with the industry chefs—“many of whom offer jobs to our students upon graduation.”
The Hilo contingent served grilled beef tongue on crisp, local watercress with an Asian vinaigrette sauce and a jaboticaba wine reduction. They prepared 1000 servings of the beef dish and a whopping 3000 desserts that included 1000 each of Okinawan sweet potato dumplings, apple banana Original Hawaiian Chocolate macadamia bites and rambutan/papaya sorbet.
The students also cooked and cubed 600 bites of four varieties of sweet potato for an educational booth presented by UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
“Actually, the (food) preparation is not so much the challenge,” noted Okuda. “It’s really to cook, properly chill and transport the food and equipment safely to the Hilton for service, but we manage every year.”
Wrapping up the student experience, Sandy Barr-Rivera, retired assistant professor of culinary arts at the Hilo campus, said, “The following Monday morning after the Taste is always a high-energy day for the students…sharing their experiences with great enthusiasm and ready to get cooking!”
Assignment for Readers
To get an idea of what it’s like to prepare bite-size servings for hundreds of Taste attendees, UH-Palamanui shares its flank steak recipe below. As Len originally took a smaller recipe and adjusted it to feed 800, your assignment is to customize it to satisfy the size of your group. Enjoy!