Waipahu Teachers Partner With Chef Hui To Extend High School Food Drive

In April 2020, eight teachers from Waipahu High School joined forces with Chef Hui to further their mission of feeding those in need during the pandemic.

The school is no stranger to gastronomy. Their student-run eatery Marauder Cafe, part of their award-winning culinary arts program, was preparing meals for the public once a week before the pandemic shut it down.

The cafe enabled students to apply their skills in a real restaurant setting to prepare them for careers in the culinary arts.

Once the cafe closed the teachers were left with a surplus of food, no cooks and no one to cook for.

So they started making meals for first responders, making multiple drop-offs to the staff at Pali Momi Medical Center and Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu before partnering with Chef Hui.

One of the first Chef Hui organized food distributions they contributed to was for the Child & Family Service nonprofit in Ewa Beach. The team prepared roughly 200 containers of Zucchini Soup and even showed up to help distribute.

“UMU and Pili Group have had a longstanding partnership with Waipahu High School and have collaborated on many projects throughout the years,” said Amanda Corby Noguchi, co-founder of Chef Hui and Under My Umbrella. “The students and teachers have always gone above and beyond and we are so grateful that we can continue to partner with them to give back to our community.”

The partnershipʻs reach has spread far and wide. Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Papakōlea Community Development Corporation, Kaimuki Youth Development Organization, Hui Mālama o Ke Kai Foundation and The Salvation Army have also received meals.

Armed with a commercial kitchen led by the director of Waipahu’s Culinary Arts Academy Elaine Matsuo and chef and culinary instructor David Dela Cruz, the teachers got to work cooking fresh soups, stews and chicken jook. On an average day they produced 150-180 quarts of soup.

Since students were not allowed on campus, Matsuo and Dela Cruz’s kitchen brigade included teachers from the departments of English, business and law and justice, the school’s student activity coordinator, resource teacher and assistant principal Elizabeth Higashi. Matsuo said Dela Cruz took the lead.

“He has been instrumental in all that we have done so far,” she said.

He taught the group safety and sanitation protocols, basic cooking techniques and how to organize, plan and execute meal pick-ups in a timely manner.

In return the teachers donated their time, labor and sometimes ingredients.

Ingredients were also provided by Chef Hui. Some were rescued by Aloha Harvest, while others were donated and purchased from various Chef Hui partners such as Maui Nui Venison, Y. Fukunaga Products Ltd, Hawaii Meats, Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative and Ho Farms.

The experience had an added benefit for the teachers. Not only were they grateful to be helping their community during a time of crisis, but they also developed strong friendships amongst each other in the process.

“We didn’t really know much about each other before we started, now I feel like we are a very close knit group. I think that’s the best take away of all,” Matsuo said.

“During the weeks when we were in workshops developing an understanding of online teaching, we totally missed getting together and making the meals.”

The food drive is on hold while the teachers move all of their classes online.

Assistant principal Higashi and Principal Keith Hayashi, who helped get the green light from the state attorney general to get the food drive up and running, are currently trying to turn it into a learning unit for this year’s culinary program, so the students can get involved with the cooking and menu planning too.

With or without the students the teachers still hope to continue the food drive once the school year gets underway.

“I believe this is a great learning experience for all of us,” Matsuo said. “All the teachers that have worked with us feel like we have helped our community, even in a small way. We felt fortunate that we were still employed and wanted to help. Hopefully we made a difference.”

For more information on the Waipahu High School Culinary Arts Academy, please visit WaipahuHigh.org. To support Chef Hui’s efforts to feed the community please visit ChefHui.com.


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