Career Plans Simmer After KEY’s ‘Culinary Experience’ Course

In its first-ever graduation ceremony, KEY Project saluted the initial class of its Culinary Experience course March 28. A handful of students, teenagers to 80-somethings, proudly finished a rigorous six-week program in its commercial kitchen, also known as the Kipuka Cafe.

One of its biggest fans was Joe Chung, who found teamwork and commitment among his classmates. And the instructors (chefs Ken Weir and Richard Wagner, with help from pastry chef Noel Nahele) “were very professional.”


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Celebrating the completion of Kipuka Cafe's first culinary course are (from left) students Brandee Cockett-Kipapa, Joseph Chung, Amy Guinther, Chef Ken Weir, sous chef Noel Nahale and student Ashlene Iereneo-Ulii. Not pictured: student Makani Ortogero-Clarke. Photo by Nathalie Walker,

The longtime Kaneohe resident declared it “an excellent program for young people.

“A lot of it was based on French practices,” he added, “Sauces that I wouldn’t think of.” At age 81, Chung doesn’t intend to plunge into a culinary career at this point, but he was thrilled about an extraordinary boat trip the class took to Coconut Island.

“It was the most exciting field trip: We worked a luncheon there for the Smithsonian Institution’s board of directors.”

His younger classmates still volunteer for Kipuka Cafe’s catering jobs and for other KEY Project events, such as the May 10 Mothers & Others brunch.

“It’s a foot in the door for their careers,” explained Kamuela Kala’i, who coordinates the two basic-skills classes. At the very least, she said, graduates can jump into jobs on prep crews or line crews in the industry. And as KEY’s kitchen manager, Weir is building his own crew for the busy months ahead.

The second culinary course ends May 10, and the next one runs from June 9 to July 18. Fee is $25 per class, or $35 for both – Introduction to Fundamental Kitchen Skills and Beginning Baking/Pastry. Both meet at noon on various weekdays. Classes are limited to six students, age 18 and older.

For more information, call Kala’i at 380-7431 or 239-5777.