Miki is a KCC Culinary School student externing in our kitchen part-time.
An externship at Alan Wong’s is a once in a lifetime opportunity to truly challenge one’s skills and endurance. Luckily, I was picked to be the next candidate from school to take on this culinary adventure. As my first day got closer, I could feel the nerves begin to build up inside of me. When I walked through the kitchen doors to start my first shift, I felt prepared as I could ever be, anxious, excited, and a little scared to be honest, to see what I was getting myself into.
Once I got there, they gave me a tour of the kitchen and the first thing I noticed was that a good majority of the produce the restaurant uses are from local farmers throughout Hawaii. As a culinary student with hopes to someday open my own restaurant or café that sources as much local produce as I possibly can, I was quite excited to see a well-known restaurant actually buying most of its produce locally. I knew then and there that this was the right place for me to be and learn from.
I spent the first few shifts helping out wherever I could and observing how the overall flow of the kitchen worked during service. It was neat to see how each station did their own thing yet still functioned all together as one unit to ensure a timely service for the guests. I was also amazed to see how much preparation goes into the components of the dishes as well as the level of artistic appeal it had in the plating designs. Some dishes in particular stood out to me during the service rush. Whenever I was working near the appetizer station, I was in awe just watching how they plated the soup that was served in a martini glass. The chefs would carefully squeeze in the two different colored soups then adjust the pressure they applied to the bottles to somehow create a yin and yang design to it at the end. Each plate that came out of the kitchen was like a work of edible art!
The staff there have been very helpful and made me feel welcomed from the start. Despite being in the service mode they still took the time out to answer any questions I had or to show me where things were located. Many of the cooks started off at the prep cook level so they graciously gave me helpful hints on how the work should be done and noted any tricks or tips to get it done faster yet correctly. Not only did they show me what to do, but they also explained why it needed to be done that way so that I could understand the purpose to it all. For instance, when we prepare minced ginger, we first slice it as thin as possible cutting across the hairs before putting it into the food processor. As I started cutting the ginger I found my mind starting to question this process because it didn’t make sense to spend the time to thinly cut the ginger prior to just throwing it all into a processor to get all minced up. Thankfully the prep cook then went on to explain that cutting the ginger into paper-thin slices keeps the hairs short in length and reduces the stringiness in the final product. It is these types of processes that show how much attention to detail is required from the staff here at Alan Wong’s. They make sure that the quality of the ingredients that go into a dish is processed at the same high standards of quality they uphold each finished plate that goes out to the guests.
Overall, I enjoyed my first week and learned so much from everyone at Alan Wong’s. Being that this was the first time I have ever worked in a kitchen outside of school, my main concerns were to not get in everyone’s way or slow them down in any way. I realize now, even more so than ever, that I need to practice my knife skills and do everything I can just to get up to everyone else’s speed in the kitchen. I am truly grateful to the Alan Wong’s staff who have been so understanding and helpful through the start of my culinary training there. I have a long journey ahead and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.