Let’s Talk Food: A lesson in running a business

Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa.Remember that name.At age 14, he already has a business, Pa‘ina by Ocean. It started as an online and social media platform featuring cooking tutorials and farm interviews and tours. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed things.In March 2020, when restaurants and hotels were shuttered, his dad, Jayson Kanekoa, the executive chef of Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, took Ocean with him to visit two of his most important vendors, JA Farms, known for their baby romaine, mixed greens and spinach, and Rincon Family Farms, growing the sweetest, most delicious strawberries.Both farms shared that they were having difficulty selling their produce since no one was buying. Ocean watched as the vegetables were unpicked and then tilled back into the soil. He saw the strawberries left on the bush because there were no orders from the restaurants and hotels for them.Seeing all this motivated Ocean into action.He contacted more farmers, fishermen and ranchers and created a box of assorted local fruits, vegetables and protein, called Pa‘ina Bags.At 14 years old, Ocean has already realized that running a business is hard work, taking a lot of dedication and time. There are no shortcuts. Only hard work. Work hard and be patient.However, Ocean loves running his own business.“I have a couple favorite things — working with the farmers and other purveyors. They have become friends now and l’m happy that we can help them out,” says Ocean. “My favorite thing is also the positive feedback from the community. So many people tell me how they are eating healthier at home, trying new products and recipes they wouldn’t normally buy. And I think our community as a whole is more aware of buying and eating local and knowing where their food comes from!”I was privileged to be invited to tour the kitchen and talk to his dad at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. He showed me the greens he used for his salad from JA Farms. He was so proud of them, and said that these farmers were always thinking about their crops, seven days a week. That passion, he said, showed in their product.I saw that enthusiasm and passion in Ocean that he inherited and learned from his dad, who he totally looks up to. Ocean feels his dad is his inspiration in the kitchen and has taught him all of his cooking techniques and knowledge. He also credits his dad for making him appreciate and value where his food comes from.I have sat across from Chef Jayson and Ocean during a dinner and I know the feeling is mutual. There is a lot of love and respect that father and son have for each other.Ocean’s dream is to be a chef like his dad. He would like to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York and would love to be able to be able to intern with a few famous chefs to gain more experience and knowledge in the culinary industry.Under his belt are several culinary awards, including:• 2018 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s Keiki in the Kitchen finalist.• 2019 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s Keiki in the Kitchen champion.• 2019 Hawaii Island Aloha Festival poke champion.Ocean has learned so much already and has advice for any youngster.“Everyone has a passion — follow it and work hard,” he says. “You may not think that you can make a difference, but you may just surprise yourself! You never know until you try.”Thanks to the Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation and its executive director, Hayley Matson Mathes, Ocean and his sister, Jaydene, were recent guests of the Hawaii Community Culinary Program.Ocean had a whole Kona kampachi, which he broke down. He kept the spine bones, and with 1 gallon of boiling water he made a fish stock. Once the stock started to boil, he lowered the heat to a simmer so the broth stayed clear and did not get bitter.With 2-ounce cuts of kampachi fillets, skin on, and seasoned with salt and pepper, he placed it in a smoking hot pan with some vegetable oil, skin side down. During the entire cooking time the skin side stayed down. He used a spoon to drizzle the hot oil on the tops of the fish. He lowered the heat to allow the fish to finish cooking. In the meantime, he cut up a container of Hamakua Mushrooms ali‘i mushrooms in fourths and placed them in a hot pan with some vegetable oil, cooking them until they caramelized. When they were done, he poured in about 1 cup of the fish stock and added a few teaspoons of mushroom soy sauce.The two fillets were plated, mushrooms with some stock were placed on top of the fish and he finished it with bean sprouts and chopped green onions.Foodie bitesHawaii Community College Culinary Program’s Bamboo Hale’s schedule is as follows:• Today through Thursday: European and Italy special menu.• April 20-22: European and German special menu.• April 27-29: Closed.Call 934-2791 to order your $15 lunch, which includes an amuse-bouche, appetizer, soup or salad and dessert. Pickup times are from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

The Palamanui Palate: Chef Stephen Rouelle teaches plant-based cuisine and shares his veganism lifestyle philosophy

We’re lucky here at Hawaii Community College — Palamanui. We operate in a community with extremely talented chefs and have an organization — the Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation — that brings these chefs into the classroom to guest lecture for our students.Why is this valuable? It’s important to introduce students to new culinary experts who can supplement their associate degree curriculum. As the Hawaiian proverb says, “A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho‘okahi,” which means, “One learns from many sources.”Earlier this semester, our guest lecturer was Chef Stephen Rouelle, founder and chef behind the vegan, vegetarian and raw food restaurant, Under the Bodhi Tree, which was founded in Kona in 2014.Chef Stephen’s demonstration, titled “Understanding Veganism in Professional Food Service,” was fascinating. It culminated in a recipe demonstration for vegan corn chowder that was as good if not better than the traditional recipe that includes bacon.But first, Chef Stephen began with the basics, which is important because not everyone understands what veganism is. He defined it as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”He also made sure to tell our students why this knowledge is important, pointing out that 3% to 4% of the world is vegan and in Hawaii’s tourism-based economy, restaurants serve customers from all over the world.“When providing service to guests in a food and beverage setting you will be asked to understand many concepts around how people dine and eat,” Chef Stephen noted.He added: “I would ask you to understand that ultimately we are in the people business, not the food business. Producing food is a far easier task than producing food to meet people’s expectations of taste, quality and value within their needs and desires.”That’s a really important point, and culinary student Kamaile Gusman said that was her big takeaway from the presentation.“You don’t have to be vegan,” she said, “but it is important to learn about different dietary needs to be able to cater to different people.”So, how to meet a customers’ expectations for taste and quality while cooking vegan? It was interesting to see Chef Stephens’ approach, in which he identifies the flavor profiles of ingredients like bacon and then tries to capture those using ingredients such as Bragg’s liquid aminos, liquid smoke and others.The proof was in the chowder. It was really delicious and opened up the students’ eyes to what vegan cuisine actually can be. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can make some yourself. Or if you’d rather have the pro cook for you, Chef Stephen has some new things happening in addition to the Under The Bodhi Tree serving at Kaimu Farmers Market on Saturdays in Pahoa. Chef Stephen is also doing a weekly meal delivery in Kona, Keauhou, Pahoa and Hilo. He recently opened Kohala Coffee Co. at Puna Kai in Pahoa and expects to have Under The Bodhi Tree Pahoa and Banzos Falafel open this summer in Pahoa. Later in the year, he’ll have a second Kohala Coffee Co. and Bodhi Tree Juicery and Deli in Waikoloa Village.Mahalo to Chef Stephen and the Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation for enhancing our program of culinary studies!Vegan Corn Chowder1 medium onion, diced2 stalks celery, diced3 sprigs fresh thyme1 bay leaf1 cup corn kernels2 teaspoons brown sugarDash smoked paprika3 drops liquid Smoke1/4 teaspoon black pepper3 Tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos3 Tablespoons flour3 cups vegetable stock (see recipe below)2 cups oat milk1 russet potato (skin on) diced1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped parsleyAdd 3 Tablespoons Coconut oil to a medium-size, 3-quart soup pot. Add and saute the onion and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes to build flavor. Add and sweat the celery for a few minutes on a medium heat. Add the thyme and bay leaf and sweat for about 30 seconds. Add the corn and sautee another 30 seconds. Add the sugar, paprika, liquid smoke, black pepper and aminos and reduce to a syrupy consistency. Dust the mix with flour and cook out the flour (about 2 minutes).Add the vegetable stock (recipe below) and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add oat milk and taste and adjust seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until potatoes and vegetables are tender and soup is reduced to create richness and flavor. Finish with chopped parsley.Basic neutral vegetable stock1 onion, rough dice1 medium carrot, rough dice2 celery stalks, rough dice1/2 teaspoon Fennel seed10 peppercorns.Dash of turmeric1 tomato, rough dice2 Tablespoon soy sauce1-inch by 2-inch strip kombu (edible kelp)32 oz. cold water Place all ingredients into a pot and allow it to sit overnight in refrigeration. Place on a slow stove top and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Strain and cool.This vegetable stock can be made ahead and reserved for use. 

Chef Mavro thrills culinary students at Leeward CC

Every semester, students of Leeward Community College’s Culinary Arts program participate in an event which brings a successful (sometimes world-renowned) chef to the campus for a unique learning experience. The “Culinary Assembly” held in partnership with the Hawaiʻi Culinary Education Foundation consists of a live cooking demonstration by a chef, followed by a question and answer portion and closes with the awarding of scholarships.In February, James Beard award-winning chef George “Mavro” Mavrothalassitis thrilled students with his culinary techniques. Chef Mavro prepared Squab en Papillote with Savoy Cabbage and Foie Gras for students on Zoom.“Basically, it’s a way to expose students to different elements of the culinary world that they might not get in a classroom—it has become an extension of our education beyond the curriculum,” said Associate Professor Matthew Egami.The long list of participating chefs includes Chris Kajioka, Chai Chaowasaree and D.K. Kodama, who have all given their time to speak to students about their experiences and how they were able to overcome challenges in their specific areas of the culinary industry.Students love this interaction as they get to see these chefs up close and, before the coronavirus pandemic, they were able to taste the dishes being prepared.“The Hawaiʻi Culinary Education Foundation is dedicated to the development and support of culinary training programs throughout the state of Hawaiʻi,” said Executive Director Hayley Matson-Mathes. “The foundation’s mission is to raise the culinary bar in Hawaiʻi.”Having to shift the Culinary Assembly to a completely virtual event during the last two semesters did have some advantages. Shyer students were more inclined to ask questions without the fear of being in a crowd, with all eyes on them.Students were also eager for the final portion of the event where scholarships were given out. Thanks to very generous donations, these scholarships usually total about $10,000 or more. Consistent donors include: Armstrong Produce, Evelyn Shun Newman, Hawaii Gas, Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, Nobuye Horio, Russel J. Hata, Stephen and Eugenie Werbel and Sunao Sandy Kodama. The program also generates scholarship money through events such as a Scholarship Brunch.Thanks to the Hawaiʻi Culinary Education Foundation, the numerous donors and the industry partnerships built by Leeward CC’s faculty, students will continue to reap the benefits of the Culinary Assembly and the wisdom of renowned chefs for years to come.—By Tad Saiki