Leilehua High Is Cooking Up Future Chefs
Leilehua High’s Culinary Arts Academy is more than classes and cooking, as the students operate their own restaurant, Ala Serenity, serving parties of 10 to 40 customers during the school year.
Future chefs prepare the meals on standard restaurant equipment, then serve it and clean up afterwards, said academy director Tammy Nakamura. “We have our regular people who always come,” she said. “It is not walk-in; they have to call and make a reservation.” For reservations, call 622-6563.
A hungry bunch of 17 educators from different schools — on campus for a recent meeting — had lunch at the California Avenue venue in mid-January.
“Students cooked Thai spring rolls with chili sauce to be wrapped in lettuce. Leilehua green vegetables with their signature dressing was served, and diners had a choice of clam chowder or French onion soup with cheese bread, and tiramisu for dessert.” All that for $12 a person. Nakamura and another instructor take
FROMPAGE1 students through three progressive courses on the food-service business. “Every year is different,” noted Nakamura, who has been at the high school for 15 years. “It depends on the students. Every year is like training a new group.”
And there are success stories. Former student Christian Dortch, for example, was named Best Teen Chef last year in a competition that awarded him a scholarship to the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California in Orange County. He now works in a Disneyland restaurant while attending school.
The culinary academy opened in 2000 and focused on catering services, but since 2006 — when they moved into the old library and converted it — all efforts are concentrated on the sit-down restaurant and its three kitchens.
“Don’t expect to eat,” Nakamura warns her students, sharing the hard facts of the business. “If you get to eat, that’s a plus. You are going to learn to wash dishes really good.”
Furlough Fridays have cut into the program’s cleanup time, she admitted. Before the furlough days, she would pull students out of their last class of the day to help with cleanup. “Now they cannot get out of their classes because our time is cut short. They come back after school to do the cleaning.
“I don’t think I realized what a big undertaking it is until I actually did it,” she added. “ There’s lots of planning and organization. The kids have to be on top of it, too.”