Now that the pursuit of culinary arts has been elevated around the world, it's neat to see talented young chefs blossom from students to industry powerhouses. If you haven't already, check out your nearest community college's student-run restaurant to see (and support) its culinary school and get a glimpse of our future in dining.
I recently went to Hilo with my coworkers primarily to — believe it or not — visit Hawaii Community College's Bamboo Hale, the restaurant in which second-year students put their classroom knowledge and skills to practical use. They learn everything about running and working in a restaurant, from cooking and waiting tables to workflow, nutritional considerations and business principles. Not all of them will end up as chefs; some go on to front-of-the-house management, product development, and other related careers. Most end up at Kona resorts, but some will venture to Oahu or the mainland.
Chef/instructor Brian Hirata (originally from Pearl City) gave us a little tour of the school and had us meet his students — all of whom stay in the same learning pod for the entire two years. About 60 percent of them make it all the way through, with the bulk of changes in the first two semesters. "Many of them find their more appropriate career path," Hirata explained.
Unlike four-year colleges (which usually takes people longer to finish), you can fast track yourself to your career with this two-year program. It's also much easier on your finances, as you could get through the program for about $5000. Prerequisites only include a high school diploma or GED. There's no test to be enrolled in culinary program, although they will use various other measurements (like high school grades) to determine where to place students for their general education courses such as math and English. Just thought I'd put that out there in case you were thinking of a career in culinary arts.
Gem Nishimura of Hawaii Mom Blog treated us to lunch — you get a salad, soup AND entree for about $19, which is an exceptional value. The students create menus inspired by cuisines around the world throughout the semester, and on this week, they were exploring Mexico. I can't show you everything we ate since that would be too much. What a deal, right? I'll just show you some of our favorites. To see her write up on Hawaii Mom Blog and the menu schedule, click here.
We were all really impressed with the students' professionalism and skills, and I think you will be, too. There are usually a lot of kinks to work out when dining at a student-run facility, but these kids nailed it. It's also a much better value than other community college restaurants ... you just have to get yourself to Hilo!
If you're interested in dining at Bamboo Hale, it's open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations are requested.
If you're interested in enrolling in the HCC culinary program, early registration starts April 9. For more information, click here.
Hawaii Community College
1175 Manono St.