Waipahu High’s student-run cafe whets appetites for culinary careers

Waipahu High’s student-run cafe whets students’ appetite in culinary careers

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waipahu High School’s Marauder Cafe is an on-campus eatery run by students. Mentors provide guidance but the teenagers plan the menus and prepare the meals.

“My responsibility is cooking. My dish is the miso fish, black cod,” senior Rovic Nadura said.

This week featured a Japan menu, but the student chefs also tackled Brazilian and Italian dishes.

“The students come up with the ideas. It’s not ours,” said Elaine Matsuo, director of Waipahu’s Culinary Arts Academy.

She’s been with the program since it started 25 years ago to give students a taste of all aspects of a restaurant’s operation. For some former students, the cafe was a stepping stone to culinary careers.

“I have executive chefs. I have others that are line cooks,” Matsuo said. “I also have people that own their own businesses.”

“We’ve had students that have gone on to Johnson & Wales, to Leeward, KCC, to different post secondary institutions,” school Principal Keith Hayashi said.

Blaize Velasquez is a Waipahu graduate and a cook at the Four Seasons. He also serves as a mentor in the Marauder Cafe kitchen.

"For the most part this is how the industry is. We have the ticket system. I'm reading it off. I'm the expediter and they're firing for me," he said.

About 30 students enrolled this year, but it's been as high as 70.

Twelfth-grader Mia DePont is preparing for her future.

"I want to major in hotel and restaurant management so I get more of the business aspect. I can explore my culinary arts by working in different restaurants and learning from chefs," she said.

Culinary Arts and other programs Waipahu offers let students sample jobs they might want to pursue.

"Our motto at Waipahu is, 'My voice. My choice. My future.' All that we do focuses on that and providing opportunities for students," Hayashi said.

Marauder Cafe opens once a week and you need a reservation to get in. The tasty offerings are reasonably priced and proceeds help the school’s scholarship program.

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