Since being accredited by the American Culinary Federation in 2005, the culinary arts programs of the UH community colleges have offered a wide variety of degrees and certifications.
The programs are set up to allow students a shot at getting the necessary skills for different careers in the hotel and restaurant industries.
Every type of culinary career is offered from chef to kitchen management. These programs offer associate degrees and certifications that extend to baking and pastry arts as well.
Working in tandem with the UH community colleges is The Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head. The Institute essentially turns community college degrees and certificates into four-year bachelor’s of applied science degrees.
Since their inception, the culinary programs have gotten positive feedback from students.
“The program is great, and I think that anyone that is interested in cooking should look into it,” said Shayne Okuhama, a culinary student at Leeward Community College. “All of the instructors are very knowledgeable, and they are there to help you succeed. I’m glad that I chose to attend because I feel like once I’m finished I’ll be right where I need to be to start in the field.”
Students don’t exactly have to wait until completion of their programs, however, to gain experience.
Many restaurants accept student interns part-time to give them hands-on experiences and training with real chefs and cooks in fast-paced kitchens.
“Overall, this program is great. They give us plenty of opportunities to get out there and meet other chefs, which I love,” said Kylee Tabisola, another student who is a year and a half into the program.
There are other aspects of the culinary arts that students often might not think of in relation to cooking. Learning different cuisines is directly tied to different cultures.
“There’s way more to it than just cooking I realized, for example the language,” Tabisola said. “A lot of words and names for the dishes we make are in French and Spanish.”
Many students entering the program, or the food and beverage industry as a whole for that matter, know that it takes grit and determination.
Coming into this industry with hopes of landing a high-paying job right away often comes with a reality check. The desire to get down and dirty with it has to stem from passion.
“This is my first semester in the program,” Okuhama said. “I decided to join the culinary program because it was the only thing I could see myself doing. I could have continued working at Foodland as a manager and make more money than I do now, but I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it because it makes me happy to cook for people.”
The culinary programs offered at the UH campuses are simply a great place to start if you have the passion and the drive.
“After I finish the program, I plan on working for a little while here in Hawai‘i,” Okuhama said. “I eventually plan on moving to the mainland to expand my knowledge and experience.”
by Storm Cruz, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter