Page 3 - MidWeek East - Mar 16, 2022
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MARCH 16, 2022 3
 East O‘ahu Native Works His Way Up To Executive Chef At Waikīkī Restaurant
Leong concocted an elevat- ed banana pudding for the menu.
tember, my brother came in to eat and he like, started crying. He’s like, ‘this is it right here,’” Leong recalls.
Outside of the home, all it really took was a cook- ing demonstration from a visiting chef to solidify Leong’s decision to pur- sue it as a career. He was in middle school when a chef came to his class for career day.
pi‘olani Community Col- lege, under the patronage of chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney, and his partner Dave Calderon. Leong lat- er worked his way up to be- ing the sous chef there. In 2014, he was asked to be a part of the Mahina & Sun’s opening team.
Their goal is to offer elevat- ed home cooking, inspired in part by Leong’s Hawaiian roots, and the varied roots of his team.
“When we reopened for dinner service back in Sep-
  One particularly senti- mental dish is the banana pudding from the dessert menu. This was inspired by how his mother would often bake banana cream pies to sell at craft fairs.
“That was probably the first time I realized that there was a path in cooking that I could go through,” he says. “My mom was very support- ive of it. Unfortunately, she passed away when I was 18, right after I graduated high school. She didn’t get to see my career flourish.”
Leong began working
In 2019, he returned to Hawai‘i after spending a year and a half pursuing opportunities in California. When he returned, he ap- plied his skills at Mud Hen Water and Piggy Smalls.
“In our circle, everyone said it was the best thing they ever had. Now that I’m in control of the menu at the restaurant — and since our philosophy is sort of like ‘welcome to our home’ — I thought it would be ap- propriate to do this dessert that reminds me of being a child,” he says.
From a student in Kapi‘olani Community College’s culinary program to executive chef at Mahina & Sun’s — Erik Leong’s career is thriving. His long- term goal is to mentor those looking to become chefs one day too. LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTOS
In the summer of 2021, he returned to Mahina & Sun’s to reopen the restau- rant and revive the menu.
Honing in on his 15-plus years of culinary skills,
as a dinner cook at Town restaurant in Kaimukī during his final year in the culinary program at Ka-
Leong notes that his long-term goal is to even- tually become a teacher or mentor to other young hopeful chefs.
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