Two teams from Kokua Kalihi Valley pounded kalo for the preparation of their delicious dishes at the 808 Jr Chef Showdown Competition.
Youth was no barrier to a lineup of excellent food Saturday at the 808 Jr Chef Show Down Competition at Palama Settlement, where six Kalihi youth teams presented their tastiest, most healthful recipes.
Teams hailing from the After School All-Stars at Dole Middle School, Kalihi YMCA, Palama Settlement and Kokua Kalihi Valley dispelled the notion that healthy food means bland or boring. Every dish delivered on taste, with a diversity of flavorful ingredients employed by creative cooks, from quinoa and taro to strawberries, orange juice and Sriracha sauce.
Dishes were required to follow federal MyPlate guidelines and include chicken thighs. The poultry was selected by organizers for its affordability and accessibility, not to mention the fact that it's a forgiving ingredient to cook.
Kokua Kalihi Valley's Ehuola Mauka team presented its version of Hawaiian Chinese Chicken Stir-Fry, the winning dish. It included hearty uala patties.
While each team went home with an award acknowledging its strength in the contest, the first-place winner was Ehuola Mauka, a group from Kokua Kalihi Valley. Their Hawaiian Chinese Chicken Stir-fry featured a lineup of traditional Hawaiian foods, such as kalo (taro), uala (sweet potato, served up as a hearty patty), palula (sweet potato leaves), hoio (fiddlehead fern), pele (edible hibiscus), olena (tumeric) and coconut oil. A light seasoning of Hawaiian salt allowed the natural flavors of each ingredient to shine through.
In fact, two Kokua Kalihi Valley teams took out traditional wooden boards and pounding stones to prepare kalo for their dishes. Pounders drew more than a few oohs and ahhs, though all of the teams displayed their own strengths in knife and cooking skills, food-safety practices and organization. Every team was exceptional in teamwork and cooperation, even as each member was on-task with specific duties.
A member of Team Palama intently stuffed chicken thighs with a mix of diced mozzarella, macadamia nuts and fresh basil.
The students’ proficiency was not happenstance. Kapiolani Community College, under the direction of chef-instructor Daniel Leung, provided hours of instruction to adult leaders and students, and KCC students were on hand for each team during the contest to lend support.
The rest of the dishes and teams, and the awards they garnered:
Teriyaki Chicken Summer Rolls with Sriracha Sesame Sauce, by the ABDV Team from Kalihi YMCA, won the Awesome Flavors award
Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Quinoa Pilaf, Carrots and Pecans, and Strawberry Salad with Orange-Honey Dressing, by Team Palama, was credited with using the Most Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
Hawaiian Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, by Team Dreamville from Kalihi YMCA, took Best Presentation for its attractive plating
Hawaiian Chicken Stew, by Ehuola Makai from Kokua Kalihi Valley, was honored for Best Use of MyPlate Guidelines
Dole Chop Suey, by the After-School All-Stars at Dole Middle School, took the award for Outstanding Teamwork
An After-School All-Star member shows great technique in slicing peppers.
At the conclusion of the day, contestants were showered with encouragement. Judges commented on the flavorful food and cooperative spirit, and urged students to continue learning about cooking and to strive for a career in the culinary arts. As Leung praised teams for jobs well done, he offered them an open invitation to visit the culinary school and promised to give them tours of the kitchens personally.
Judges were chef Eddie Mafnas of Fire House Food Truck; Jill Puletasi, principal at Kaiulani Elementary School; Todd Morgan, chief information officer at AlohaCare; Melissa Guzman, dietitian at National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii; and this writer.
Hawaiian Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa from Team Dreamville
Team Palama's Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Quinoa Pilaf and a Strawberry Salad with Orange-Honey Dressing
Hawaiian Chicken Stew, accompanied by freshly pounded poi, served up by Ehuola Makai
The ABDV Team presented Teriyaki Chicken Summer Rolls with Sriracha Sesame Sauce.
Dole Chop Suey, by Dole Middle School's After-School All-Stars