By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer

On Feb. 25, KCC student chef Sean Uyehara competed in the Regional Young Chef Rôtisseur competition at The Culinary Institute of the Pacific at the University of Hawaiʻi, Maui College. Hosted by Chambellan Chris Speere, Uyehara managed to take the win with a three-course meal (appetizer, main course, and dessert), using the ingredients of a mystery basket that was given to him.

Uyehara’s interest in culinary sparked when he began working at a restaurant straight out of Kailua High School. At first, he worked in the front of the house, however, after observing the work that people did in the back of the restaurant, he noticed how fun it was, which led to his decision to enroll in KCC’s culinary arts program.

Uyehara entered the competition just two weeks before while he was competing for KCC in the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) Western Regional competition in Joliet, Ill. In the Maui competition, he competed against Culinary Institute of the Pacific Maui College students Motley Adovas and Aldrin Jay Arellano, who were announced as runners-up.

“I had two weeks to develop stuff and practice, but [this competition] was a mystery basket challenge, so there was only so much [I] could prepare for,” Uyehara said.

Uyehara was given a mystery basket that contained the following:

  • One whole fresh kampachi
  • One whole chicken
  • Fresh “head on” shrimp
  • Hawaiʻi Island Hāmākua Aliʻi mushrooms
  • Mascarpone cheese
  • Hearts of palm
  • Kula strawberries

Uyehara preparing four portions of his appetizer for the tasting judges. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Liebert)

With these provided ingredients, Uyehara used his creativity and kitchen skills to produce a three-course meal (four portions per course) in three hours. Those courses, according to Judith Kellogg, who is the head of public relations, was:

Appetizer: Pan seared kampachi with a shrimp croquette, lemon risotto, basil pesto, and tomato relish
Main Course: Pan roasted chicken, mustard gnocchi with braised chicken and Hāmākua mushrooms, pickled hearts of palm, and red wine reduction
Dessert: Chocolate flan with a honey cinnamon bread pudding, Kula strawberry coulis, and whipped mascarpone

“The two guys that I competed with on Maui — I just met them that day — they’re really good … they worked hard,” Uyehara said.

When it came time to evaluating each competitor’s dish, Uyehara said that there was a kitchen judge (scored based on cooking method, organizational skills, and more) and four tasting judges (judged each dish individually). Although the point total wasn’t disclosed in the end, Uyehara won and is now headed to Maryland during the first week of May to compete in the nationals competition.

“Just [competing] was good enough for me; winning didn’t really matter,” Uyehara said. “The competition itself was just good fun; it was a good adrenaline rush and it flies through like nothing.”

Correction: In an earlier version, it was stated that the Regional Young Chef Rôtisseur competition was held at the Mill House Restaurant in Maui. The competition was held at The Culinary Institute of the Pacific at the University of Hawaiʻi, Maui College, and the celebratory dinner followed at the Mill House Restaurant. We apologize for the error.