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Recording history, reporting the truth & recognizing excellence.


Recording history, reporting the truth & recognizing excellence.


Student chefs take first place at annual cooking challenge

Asian-themed dishes wow judges
Na Hoku Staff
Lei Shinshiro (left), Mrs. Martin, James Huang, and teacher Lars Mitsuda hold us the first place plaque at the Mahi’ai Gala at Aloun Farms April 20. The school’s culinary program won $2,500 for their “teishoku” plate of Sesame-Crusted Ahi and vegetable tempura.

Moanalua High School student chefs James Huang and Leilani Shinshiro demonstrated their creativity and culinary skills at a competition last month that won them first place in the Aloun Farms annual competition. They defeated five other schools, earning the school $2,500 in the process.

“I was very surprised that we won,” Shinshiro said.  “I wasn’t too nervous because I had (previous competitive) experience from CTSO.” 

Moanalua celebrated their win at the Mahi’ai Gala, with the culinary team serving its Sesame-Seared Ahi with Ginger, Wasabi and Butter Cream Sauce, with a mixed Aloun Farms Vegetable Tempura to the 250 guests that attended. The event allowed students the chance to showcase their feats to a wide audience.

Each school had the same challenge: to make a dish using local produce from Aloun farms and a local protein. This year, the mandatory ingredients were bok choy and ahi, bonus points if they used Meadow Gold butter and Kauai shrimp.

Moanalua High school’s culinary team has been competing since the 3rd annual competition in 2016. Lars Mitsuda, one of the culinary instructors at Moanalua prepared his students through his classes, teaching them various techniques that helped them with their success in this competition. 

“I try my best to teach techniques in class that can be applied to any ingredient or dish,” Mitsuda said.

The dish Huang and Shinshiro created was a Japanese-style “teishoku” meaning a set menu, a meal that included a noodle soup, entree, and tempura. This dish showcased both their techniques learned in class and their own backgrounds. Leilani drew from her Japanese heritage, and decided to tempura the vegetables and shrimp, truly highlighting the ingredients. 

“James used techniques from class to make noodles from bok choy leaves, broke down ahi into sections, and made a shrimp dashi using the shells from Kauai shrimp,” Mitsuda said.

What set Moanalua High School apart from other schools was how they highlighted the local ingredients and incorporated all the required and bonus ingredients into one cohesive dish. Their background and skills all played a role in their success. The prize money will be used for more opportunities for culinary students.

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