Culinary Arts Life Information
March 17, 2016
...can you believe that we're already more than halfway through March? Spring break is upon us, and the second module is practically almost over. Practically, I said. While you should definitely use the next week to catch up on sleep, don't forget to exercise your palate and keep your knife skills in tact. Come in early once classes start up again to sharpen your tools, so as to finish this module -- and semester -- strong.
There are, of course, many things to look forward once we come back. The Pearl will open up for service again, after being practically booked for this week. Fundamentals II can be found in the cafeteria, doing their thing (look for the Ala 'Ike Grill Sign~ can't miss it) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Asian/Continental will move into their Korean and Japanese cuisine and will be starting their regular Thursday lunch service. And Special Events will be having their dinner with guest chef, Ron de Guzman.
So yeah~ time to take a breather, and then we're off once more.
Have an egg-cellent spring break, peeps!
In addition, you'll regularly see the "Chef Talk" section, which includes an exclusive interview with one of our Chefs. Let's learn more about our brilliant team of Chef Instructors, hear from them, and be inspired~
Next Up: This Familiar Face -------------------->
While I never had the privilege of experiencing Chef Matt as a true Chef Instructor, I did have the pleasure of having him for Purchasing and Cost Control, as well as Sanitation and Safety, during my first semester here at Leeward CC.
Chef really made the class interesting, which says a lot, given that it did take place just as the sun rose above the horizon. He did give us extra incentive to get there on time: Chef locked the door when the clock hit seven. I expect that being in his lab class is similar to being in his lecture class, except with maybe at least 12% more 'Serious Chef Face.'
If you haven’t met him yet, Chef is known for joking with his students. But don’t be fooled! While some amount of fun is probably okay (don’t quote me on this), as always, don’t full on cause a ruckus during class time. You’re there to learn. Remember: time and place.
More On Chef~
Chef has held jobs at Disney World, Buca di Beppo, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Nordstrom, and Kincaids. He's worked at every station in every restaurant that he's worked in, including ... baking. ("Ewww," Chef comments.) For whatever reason, Chef Matt seems oddly biased against baking. Why? This peer mentor will probably never know.
The first restaurant job that Chef had was selling turkey legs at Disney. ($4.76 each~) He associates himself with producing simple, clean, and fresh (or pickled) foodstuffs.
"Chef Talk" with Matthew Egami
Chef Matt is the kind of Chef Instructor who always tries to make himself available, whether one of his students needs help with something or the culinary arts peer mentor needs a last-minute interview. Setting up an appointment is simple, and when I show up to his office, I find that Chef, being the kind chef that he is, is so graciously allowing his students to have tasting time. I wait for him in his office until his class breaks up, and quietly watch as he makes his way in and out. I can't help laughing as "Sorry, I'll be right with you" quickly becomes, "Jeez, Shay. Stop bothering me, I told you I'm almost done."
--despite the fact that I'm just sitting there. Quietly.
"I'm all yours," he says at last.
"...are you sure, Chef?"
I try not to laugh when he goes to grab his water bottle.
Q: How did you get started as a chef?
"I... well, let me take a step back. So I was a terrible, terrible student. I didn't care about school at all. There was nothing you could say to convince me that learning Geometry was going to be of any use to me. I played soccer. So I was like, 'I'm going to be a professional soccer player.' Turns out I'm not that good. But, you know, at that age...
"So, I took a food science class in high school, and I took it because I had flunked half my classes and I needed something that I could pass. And I was very lucky. I had a teacher, Mrs. Chong, and she... was the one who kind of inspired me and got me on that path of looking at food in a different way and seeing food as more than just fuel.
"'cause I grew up on -- I didn't go to Italy, I didn't travel. I grew up on Velveeta. I grew up on Hamburger Helper. You know? Like, a good day was Tuna Helper. And it'd be like, 'Oh, tuna instead of hamburger?' So I didn't have any real perspective on food, you know, and she was the first person who kind of inspired me into it.
"From there, honestly, I've been lucky -- I've been so lucky in my life and in my career. I've had great instructors at culinary school.
"My first chef in a restaurant... was just a sarcastic guy. But he was good to me. I've been very lucky. I've had a lot of chefs, a lot of instructors, a lot of mentors, a lot of good people in my life who have really pushed me to be better. Pushed me into things that maybe I was too afraid or too embarrassed to do or try. And that's what keeps me going. I love food, I love cooking -- don't get me wrong. But the people. That's what really gets it for me, you know? Um... does that... that was way past answering your question, I'm sorry."
Q: What other professions have you explored?
Have you? I dunno. You wanted to be a professional soccer player, right?
"Well... I would've loved to explore that, had I been good enough to explore it, anyway." Chef pauses for a bit. "You know, I honestly... I really haven't done a lot else. I've done volunteer stuff, but I've never really done anything else as a profession. And I'll be honest... I never really wanted to. I think.
"Because I thought about it. When I got out of the industry, I was done with cooking. I was like, 'I'm over it. I'm done.' But the further away I got from it, you know, the more I realized how much I really loved it. So I don't think that I ever really wanted to.
"I wanted to be a repo man when I was a kid. I was either going to be a professional soccer player, a repo man, or a demolition -- you know, the guy who blows up buildings. That's three things I wanted to be, growing up."
Q: Is it difficult to be a young chef? Have people ever refused to take you seriously because of your age?
"Yes and no. To the second question: yes and no-- well, people make assumptions all the time. Regardless of age or race or gender or anything else, people are going to make assumptions of you.
"I think that 'difficulty caused by being a young chef' is kind of... it's a mindset thing. I probably got approached in different ways by different people because of my age, but at the same time, there's a lot of positives to it. I think people would look at me and assume that I'm energetic. They'll assume that I'm passionate, or they'll assume that I'm more into it...
"So, it's good and bad. There's some difficulties, yes, but I think that there are also a lot of positives, you know, so to me, it kind of evens out."
Q: What are some challenges that you face, as a chef, because you have a shrimp allergy?
"Um. Tasting shrimp, obviously." Even after six hours of class, Chef Matt still has his wits about him.
"You know, I've never really had that much of a difficulty with it. My whole thing has always been to build my palate, so I taste everything. All the time. I'll eat anything, you know. I've had shrimp before -- it wasn't fun, but I've had it before. And so, I think that what you try to do is try to build everything else around it so that... I might not know, really, how the shrimp tastes, but I kind of know what everything else tastes like. It's like... I feel like I understand it as much as I possibly can without actually being able to eat it, you know?
"And then what I do is... well, you find people that you trust -- people that you respect -- and then you ask for help. I think that's the thing that a lot of people don't or are afraid to do. Ask for help. Here, for example, I ask Chef Ian or Chef Chris, and I say, 'Can you taste this for me? I think it's okay, but I really don't know, so can you taste it?' And so that helps a lot."
Q: If you were a mother sauce, which one would you be?
"That's a tough one. Kay. Tomato's...eeeuch... it's kind of bland, right? I mean... it's kind of just a tomato, right? So not a tomato. Veloute, I don't know. I never liked Veloute. It's just kind of pale and see-through."
You're not see-through, Chef.
"No, I'm not. Uh... I don't think I'm spicy enough... like, Espagnole sounds like... sing-y, right? It sounds like -- I don't know. I'm too boring for that, I think. So that leaves me what? Bechamel... and Hollandaise. And that's good. I'm kind of creamy. I'm kind of white, so..."
He pauses for a bit.
"I would say Hollandaise. Because it's definitely kind of fatty and creamy, but--"
You're not fat, Chef~
"But," Chef repeats. "Listen, listen. It's got the acid to it. It's got balance, right? And honestly, that's how I try to live. A good Hollandaise is very balanced. It's got the acid and the fat and the little bit of spice and the salt and it all kind of balances out into this great sauce."
So does that mean you're an extra acidic Hollandaise?
"Probably, yeah." Chef laughs. "Yeah, I might have a little extra squeeze of lemon juice."
Q: What's your favorite comfort food?
"This is terrible -- I don't even want you to write this -- Velveeta Shells and Cheese with fried Spam."
...do you want me to not put this on?
"Nah, it's okay. Put it. But it's... just... it's terrible. But, you know, it's what I grew up on. Food is such an emotional connection." Chef laughs again. "It's disgusting -- I'm not gonna make any excuses about it -- it's disgusting. It's plastic cheese and basically plastic meat, but it takes me back to a simpler time. It takes me back to my childhood and those memories. I always have a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese in my house. And I don't honestly eat it as much anymore, but when I have a really bad day, for whatever reason, that's what I make. I go 100% fatboy on it, and I just sit there and I just pound the whole thing."
Q: What would be your 'last supper" meal -- or your "death row" meal?
When we come to this question, Chef laughs.
"Oooh, that's a good question." He takes a moment to think, an then, "Hmm... it would have to be... a nice... fat... bone-in ribeye. Rare. With pomme frite. I would die happy. Nice, big fat steak, sitting on top perfectly crispy French Fries... you know, all the juices just running all over it and everything... I could go out like that."
...do you need a drink with that?
"Guinness," he says, without hesitation. "It would have to be Guinness. There's no point eating steak without Guinness."
Q: Oh yeah! Who's your favorite student, Chef?
"Who's my favorite student? Um. Hm. I'm gonna leave that hanging, I think. I'm gonna say that I've got a phone call."
...our chef instructors here at Leeward CC are really great, talented, and chalked full of personality, aren't they?
THANK YOU, CHEF MATT !
Graduating This Semester? Congratulations!!
1. Schedule a “Degree/Certificate Check” appointment with our counselor, Ann Dorado.
2. Submit an “Application for Degree/Certificate”
3. A non-refundable $15.00 fee is required for an Associate Degree or Certificate of Achievement. Pay fee at the Cashier’s Office.
4. Leeward Community College Spring 2016 Commencement Ceremony will be held on Friday, May 13, 5:00 p.m. – 7.30 p.m. on Tuthill Courtyard.
5. Know the Deadline!
Priority deadline for application/payment for Spring graduation is March 18, 2016.
6. Commencement Ceremony
Attending Commencement Ceremony is one of the most rewarding experiences in your academic journey! For more information about Commencement Ceremony and preparation for the ceremony: cap and gown, audience seating, dress code, etc. please read complete information here: http://studentlife.leeward.hawaii.edu/content/commencement
Spring 2015 Culinary Arts Graduates
Graduating Student Survey
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