Archive for the ‘Chef competitions’ Category

Hawaii chefs need votes for Food & Wine honor

March 25th, 2014

Food & Wine magazine is inviting the public to help discover The People’s Best New Chef. The award, an extension of the Food & Wine Best New Chefs award, honors talented up-and-coming innovators who have run their own kitchens for five years or fewer.

The field of 100 nominees for the award includes 10 chefs in 10 regions across America. Restaurant devotees can cast their votes on through 11 a.m. March 31.

Nominees from the Northwest/Pacific region include Hawaii’s Chris Kajioka (The Vintage Cave, Ala Moana Center), Kevin Lee (Prima, Kailua), and Sheldon Simeon (Migrant, Kihei).

The chef with the most votes in each region will be named a finalist; the finalist with the most votes overall will be named The People’s Best New Chef, to be revealed online on April 2. The winner will also be featured in the July 2014 issue of Food & Wine, the same issue that profiles the Best New Chefs. (Nominees for The People’s Best New Chef award are also eligible for the Best New Chef award.)

To learn more about the 100 nominated chefs, visit

Meet the chefs:




'Ilima celebrates Oahu's top restaurants

October 18th, 2013


Arancino at the Kahala's executive chef Daisuke Hamamoto, with company vice-president Aya Inamura, added one of the more creative touches at the event. His beef topped with truffled mashed potatoes, was topped off with a pipette full of gorgonzola cream sauce. Diners didn't know whether to squeeze it onto the dish or directly into their mouths. There was enough sauce to try both, leaving many to suggest later that when there's no time to sit down for a meal, we should have more squeezable to-go options. It was a Willie Wonka moment.Photos by Nadine Kam

Every year the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Diamond Head Theatre team up for an evening of song, dance and culinary adventures through the 'Ilima Awards, celebrating Oahu's top restaurants, high, low and in between.

Just as good as the feast following the stage performances, is seeing the chefs in the spotlight, some of them goaded to find their inner Timberlake or Beyoncé in matching the likes of Broadway star Loretta Ables Sayre's often suggestive moves in song-and-dance routines honoring each of the award-winning restaurants and their specialties.

Chefs wise to these maneuvers are likely to send up another representative from their kitchens, but the non-shy, like Chuck Furuya (representing Vino) and Ed Kenney (Town), showed that they do have backup careers should they ever tire of the restaurant biz.

Here are a few photos from the event that took place Oct. 14. More beautiful photos from Kat Wade are at

Or click to see the 'Ilima Guide.


HASR Bistro's Rodney Uyehara, with owner Terry Kakazu, cooked up boneless braised shortribs with pesto-crusted bone marrow, served over Hamakua mushroom risotto, below.



Students representing Leeward Community College's Pearl restaurant offered Asian pork belly and beans, the beans being soy beans with tomato concassé, served in a crispy wonton cup.


Chef Mavro's George Mavrothalassitis chose to put the spotlight on pastry chef Elizabeth Dippong, who came up with the Star-Advertiser table's favorite dessert of Madre chocolate cremeux with black sesame seed caramelized rice, orange meringue and butterscotch crisp, below. Also pictured, from center, are sous chef Kevin Hirahara, business manager Jo-Ann Uchimura, and sommelier Doug Johnson.

ilchoco (more…)

Healthy-licious cooking with Kahala Nui and KCC

October 17th, 2013


From left, Kapiolani Community College chef instructor Warren Uchida, KCC students Santos Quesada and Mariana  Oliveiro, and Kahala Nui CEO Pat Duarte. Quesada and Oliveiro were the student winners of Kahala Nui's annual Healthy-licious cooking competition.Nadine Kam photos

I was lucky enough to be invited back as a judge for Kahala Nui's 3rd annual Healthy-licious Contest, which invites Kapiolani Community College culinary students to create healthy recipes for seniors.

The competition took place Oct. 12 at the KCC Culinary Auditorium, and it's a contest I welcome, because unlike a lot of other food events around town, this one's easy on the opu and body as the students are tasked to use the most beneficial ingredients possible.

In his opening remarks, Pat Duarte, CEO of Kahala Nui, a life care retirement community, said that part of Kahala Nui's mission is to be an advocate for healthy dining for seniors.

"More people want to go out and eat healthy," he said, while noting that people often find healthy food isn't appealing.

He said the dullness associated with low-fat, low-sodium fare often gives hospital and nursing home food a bad rap and, "we want to change that perception and encourage young students to consider careers in this area."

He said diners don't want healthy dishes "to be an afterthought," like presenting a platter of plain steamed vegetables. In creating this competition, he said Kahala Nui aims to push students to create "something that will be the star of the menu."

This year, a field of 60 teams of two were reduced to four, based on submission of essays and recipes. Students were allowed to work with main ingrediens of chicken or a vegetarian protein. Scoring was based on taste, simplicity of preparation, nutrition, organization and delivery, and visual presentation.

Winners Mariana Oliveiro and Santos Quesada, who created Asian tofu lettuce wraps, will each receive a $600 scholarship.


Emcee Kim Gennaula received an assist from her "famous" husband Guy Hagi. She joked that now that she's been off TV news for five years, restaurant hostesses don't remember her, but will rush to seat Guy, and her own son doesn't recall that once upon a time, mom was more famous than dad.


All the students lined up with their awards and gift certificates for their participation. (more…)

Smoke gets in your heart and opu

June 19th, 2013


Nadine Kam photos
One of the entries in the "Anything Goes" category of Fresh Catch's "Hogs Gone Wild" Up in Smoke cook-off. Crab-stuffed red and yellow bell peppers were wrapped with smoked bacon.

One of the food events I look forward to each year is Fresh Catch's "Up in Smoke" cook-off, with this year's 5th annual themed "Hogs Gone Wild" and taking place at Cycle City & JN Automotive Group, at 600 Puuloa Road and Nimitz Highway.

It's because those who don't live with—as I don't anymore—or know any hunters, don't have much access to the result of the hunt, the smoked meat that is the reward for a day's labor and uncertainty over whether one will be able find and track a worthwhile target.

The annual event is a labor of love hosted by Fresh Catch's Reno Henriques, and made possible by the participating teams, who work year 'round to perfect their smoked dishes for the annual competition.


Event host Reno Henriques, of Fresh Catch, left, invited judges' victor Lisa Dejournett of VRM Pit Crew, and People's Choice winners Shawn, second from left, and Curtis Bautista, representing Always Smok'n Sum'n, to the event's throwdown competition, which resulted in a grand prize win for Always Smok'n Sum'n.

In keeping with the hog theme, many a spectator pulled up on a Harley, and a few classic cars also made their way through the parking lot in a mini parade.

Of course the highlight of the day is the opportunity to taste the myriad assortment of smoked meat, that ranged from the top-billed pork, various seafood, Molokai axis deer, and most unusual for me, Capt. Smokey's Alaska black bear, which, coated in a teriyaki-style marinade, simply tasted like beef jerky! It was the work of Henriques' brother Dominic.

Fresh Catch Hawaii locations are at 3109 Waialae Ave. (808.735.POKE) and 45-1118 Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe (808.235.POKE).


Alaska black bear jerky was one of the offerings, courtesy of the Capt. Smokey team, led by Dominic Henriques, brother of Fresh Catch's Reno Henriques.

Non-flash video link

Dishes were judged on smoked taste, tenderness and appearance. Judges selection count as 75 percent of a contestant’s overall score. People’s Choice selection will count for 25 percent.

The grand prize victor, winning over both judges and the people's choice voters, was Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, which placed in all five of the competition categories: pork, fish, chicken, beef and anything goes.

VRM Pit Crew, which came in 4th place last year in the smoked pork category, and 2nd in the smoked beef category, moved to the top of the heap in both contests this year. In the pork category, the crew traded places with Guava Smoked, who came in first last year. But don't cry for the Guava Smoked crew, which moved from second place last year to first position this year in both the smoked chicken and anything goes categories.


Here's one guy lucky to have avoided being a main course. Cesar, rescued as a young boar in the Waiahole-Waikane valley, is now a beloved 3-year-old pet who likes eating smoked pork and McDonald's french fries but rejects Jack in the Box fries, according to his owner. Cesar was the only living boar at the event. Others were splayed out on the back of trucks.

Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $1,000

1st place: VRM Pit Crew, $1,000 cash award
2nd place: Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $ 500
3rd place: Smokin' Shiggy, $100
4th place: Guava Smoked, $50
5th place: Smo'KING, $100 gift certificate
6th place: Team Hoku, $50 gift certificate
7th place: (tie) Simply Smoked ABCDE, and Pilau M/C Oahu, $25

1st place: Action Smokers, $250
2nd place: Guava Smoked, $100
3rd place: Smo'KING, $100 gift certificate
4th place: Diamond Head Market & Grill, $50
5th place: Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $ 50 gift certificate
6th place: Capt. Smokey, $25

1st place: Guava Smoked, $250
2nd place: VRM Pit Crew, $100
3rd place: (tie) Smokin' Shiggy, and Action Smokers, $100 gift certificate
5th place: Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $50
6th place: Team Hoku, $25

1st place: VRM Pit Crew, $250
2nd place: (tie) Capt. Smokey, and Prime Time Smoker, $100
4th place: Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $50
5th place: Smokin' Shiggy; $50 gift certificate

1st place: Guava smoked, $250
2nd place: Capt. Smokey, $100
3rd place: Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $100 gift certificate
4th place: Action Smokers, $50
5th place: VRM Pit Crew, $50 gift certificate
6th place: Prime Time Smoker, $25


Smoked pork offered to attendees.


Theme of the day, with a touch of the tropics.


One of the judge, 3660 on the Rise chef Russell Siu, shows some of the pork offerings awaiting judges' verdicts.


Smoked salmon was one of the entries in the fish category. Others offered salmon fillets and crisped salmon skin.


A combination of smoked lobster, scallops and fish were entered in the "Anything Goes" category. (more…) names its Hawaii 'Rising Stars'

December 8th, 2012

rising starsNadine Kam photos
Fourteen of Hawaii's Rising Star chefs and their mentors share a stage at the Halekulani Ballroom before heading to the lawn to plate up their specialties.

Since 2003,, the online magazine for culinary insiders, has criss-crossed the country with its StarChefs Rising Stars Revue, showcasing up-and-coming chefs.

Each year, selects four American markets in which to name its Rising Stars. Candidates are nominated by the Advisory Board, previous winners, local media,and the website, as well as through editorial research. Winners are then chosen by the editorial team.

On Dec. 4, StarChefs members descended on the Halekulani Hotel, where executive chef Vikram Garg had been instrumental in pitching Hawaii as home to dozens of up-and comers. And on stage, CEO said, Hawaii chefs "blew our minds," as the website's advisory board sampled cooking of 60 candidates on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island, over what she told me was two 12-day trips over the summer, sampling from about five restaurants per day. The winner's list numbered 14, though the cutoff age to win an award is 40, and they couldn't find a winner for their sommelier award.

Also conspicously missing from the list, to me, was Christopher Kajioka, whose current home at Vintage Cave Honolulu was not yet open at the time of the sampling. But I'm sure there will be many other accolades ahead for the young chef.

During the gala tasting event at the Halekulani, hosted by Garg and co-hosted by Chai Chaowasaree of Chai’s Island Bistro, with beverage pairings from host sommelier Kevin Tomaya of Halekulani, each of the 14 winning chefs presented the dish that won them their award.

rwinAfter a night of noshing, diners at the event picked their favorite dishes, and the winners, with Michelle Karr-Ueoka, center, pastry chef for Alan Wong's restaurant, named the winner for her dessert of a quadruple-layered Hanaoka Farms Lilikoi Brûlée. CEO Antoinette Bruno, left, said Michelle has the distinction of being the first pastry chef to win top honors at any of their annual Rising Stars competitions, held in different cities nationwide. The award was well deserved. Coming in second was Mark Noguchi, right, of Pili Hawaii Catering and Taste Table, and in third, next to him, was Andrew Le of the Pig and the Lady. Presenting the Jade's Best Dish Award is Lex Poulos, VP Sales and Marketing at Jade Range.

The 2012 Hawaii Rising Stars Award Winners are:

Christopher Kulis:
Capische? (Maui)
Featured dish: Australian Beef Carpaccio, Horseradish Aïoli, Radish, Lemon Oil, Fried Capers and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Andrew Le: The Pig and the Lady (Oahu)
Featured dish: Pho with Betelnut Leaf-wrapped Pork Sausages

Cameron Lewark: Spago (Maui)
Featured dish: Onaga Ceviche, Green Papaya Salad, Kaffir Lime, Coconut, and Passionfruit Flower

Nick Mastrascusa: Beach Tree at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (Big Island)
Featured dish: Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragout

Wade Ueoka: Alan Wong’s (Oahu)
Featured dish: Oxtail “Soup” of Oxtail and Corned Beef Roulade, Boiled Peanuts, and Shiitake Mushrooms

Jojo Vasquez: The Plantation House Restaurant (Maui)
Featured dish: Australian Lamb Rack, Eggplant Purée, and Chickpea Cake

Michelle Karr-Ueoka: Alan Wong’s (Oahu)
Featured dish: Lilikoi Brûlée

Elizabeth McDonald: Honu Seafood & Pizza (Maui)
Featured dish: Vegan Chocolate Mousse Cake

Quinten Frye: SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar (Oahu)
Featured dish: Octopus, Chorizo, Olives, Potatoes, Compressed Grape Tomatoes, Almonds, and Kahuku Corn Purée

Doug Kocol: SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar (Oahu) for excellence in charcuterie
Featured dish: Pork Rillette and Soppressata

Sheldon Simeon: Star Noodle (Maui)
Featured dish: Hapa Ramen: Roast Pork, Poached Egg, Bamboo Shoots, Kamaboko, Bok Choi, Mayu, and Spicy Miso

Mark Noguchi: Pili Hawaii Catering (Oahu)
Featured dish: Ho’i’o Fiddlehead Ferns, Dried Cuttlefish, Kombu, Octopus, and Tomatoes

Ed Kenney: Town, Uptown Events (Oahu)
Featured dish: Cervena Venison Pipikaula with Bud Bucket Ice

David Newman: Pint + Jigger (Oahu)
Featured cocktail: The Whiskey Thatcher: Rye, Mint, Lime, and Flamed Pernod Rinse

In addition, Alan Wong, whose kitchen produced two winners, and countless other young chefs around town, won the StarChefs Mentor Award.

In’s long-running tradition, guests at the event were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite dish of the night. As the favorite of the evening's tasters, Michelle Karr-Ueoka will receive a Jade Range 18” commercial plancha. Because she's a pastry chef, wondering if her boss Alan Wong has dibs on the range?

Tickets for the event were $95 to $125, and a portion of the evening’s tickets sales will be donated to the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College.

Next year, will take their search for rising stars to Philadelphia in February, New York in April, the San Francisco Bay Area in June, and the Carolinas in December.

rkulisChristopher Kulis led his restaurant, Capische?, on Maui to win Steelite's Restaurant of Distinction Award. When I took this photo, I broke up the swarm of women around him, and they were like, "You have to be in the picture." I was like, "No, I can't be in my photos," and they were like, "Oh, you have to! He's so handsome!" Then they were all saying how good-looking he was and how he was the most handsome chef in the batch, then all the guys around started getting into it. Chris took it all with humor, and having set him up for that, I quietly slinked away.

risingHalekulani executive chef Vikram Garg was instrumental in bringing the Starchefs competition to Hawaii. To whet appetites prior to early award announcements, he prepared this Petrossian Royal Shassetra caviar and lemongrass panna cotta.

rlambDuring the tasting event that followed the award announcements, Vikram also served this spiced sumac-marinated Australian lamb chop over hummus. A favorite with many, but as host chef, his dish wasn't eligible for the Rising Stars vote.

rcarpaccioChristopher Kulis's Australian beef carpaccio with horseradish aioli, crisp radish, lemon oil, fried capers and Parmigiano-Reggiano. In addition to his work at Capische?, he recently started Stir, a personal chef company, and The Salt Box, a high-end picnic basket caterer.

rpigAndrew Le's phó ga with slow-poached farm egg and bo la lot. Sublime and so well-balanced.

rpaiaiAndrew also offered a refreshing chilled cucumber salad over paiai.

rlilikoiMichelle Karr-Ueoka's winning Hanaoka Farms Lilikoi Brûlée features layers of lilikoi crémeux, lilikoi sorbet, lilikoi brûlée and cap of tuile sealed over the martini glass rim with a blow torch. But that wasn't all she offered. Sweet lovers also found assorted cookies, vegan chocolate and truffles at her table.

roxtailMichelle's husband Wade Ueoka, also with Alan Wong's, presented a risotto-like "oxtail soupe" of boneless oxtail and corned beef roulade, with boiled peanuts, shiitake and ginger-scallion oil. Being Chinese, for me it brought together the best of two worlds, oxtail soup meets cold ginger chicken sauce. Yum!

rgnocchiNick Mastrascusa of Beach Tree at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai presented gnocchi with oxtail ragout below, with a display of the simple ingredients, above. It inspired me to try my own experiment with gnocchi for dinner today. I always enjoy it at restaurants, but never tried making it. The gnocchi has been shaped, and a beef ragout is simmering on the stove. Can't wait to see how it turns out in a few hours.

rragoutI had Nick's gnocchi at Beach Tree when I was at Hualalai for another event and it was so fabulous. Of course when you're at the restaurant, the plating is much more elegant than at a crowd event.

rsaltQuinten Frye of SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar presented a fiery pupu of tako, chorizo, olives, potatoes, grape tomatoes, olives and Kahuku corn purée.

rstarSheldon Simeon of Star Noodle on Maui, offered his Hapa Ramen. Again, the presentation left something to be desired when compared to the actual dish, below, which I enjoyed at the restaurant in May. First of all, there's no clue as to why it's called hapa.

starnoodleStar Noodle's Hapa Ramen features one side black sesame mayu, one side white Star pork dashi topped with roast pork, kamaboko, bok choy, poached egg, bamboo shoots, Napa cabbage and spicy miso.

rvchocoPastry chef Elizabeth McDonald of Honu Seafood & Pizza on Maui shared her vegan chocolate mousse cake, made with garbanzo flour and potato starch, with mousse layers of chocolate and silken tofu.

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