*Chef Vivian is the Pastry Chef at Alan Wong's Honolulu, Chef Miya is the Chef de Cuisine at Alan Wong's Honolulu
This is Mac's reflection on his experiences in the kitchen at Alan Wong's Honolulu.

McClinton Degala

October 8, 2013


Reflection #5

            I learned that perfect cuts are not my forte. I actually enjoy doing them, but having to do them fast, well, I find it much of a challenge under the emphasis of “perfect”. If I were to do them again, I’d pace myself and see if I can be a minute faster than the last time. I don’t have complete confidence in every slice or cut I make. I tend to second-guess myself and I get hesitant, refocusing where the next cut is supposed to go. With time, practice, and the chance to keep trying, I will feel better about the cuts I make. Hopefully in time, I’ll be better.

            Sunday became one of those days where I really felt like I was a credit to the force. I am extremely thankful for assisting with side jobs for stations that led to me successfully helping out without having to question what to exactly do. For example, the wing station was under a lot of stress, so Chef Felix had me jump in—not to help the line directly—but to prep a few things they were short on. I learned to do the escargot from Chayce a couple weeks back and I was able to successfully dish that out. I also learned to do the avocado for the “chunky” (Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack). The best part about having to help was that I was able to help a team member when they needed it the most. I was crevassing the kampachi slices used from the SeatoMe event, but was stopped to help. In time, I managed to complete my tasks. I’ve learned that from helping around the kitchen, I’d be able to apply them when it is needed. I’d be there to complete these small, maybe tedious tasks to facilitate the work flow in the stations. Everything I learn every day, no matter the size of the task, is all part of the big picture and will become a huge asset in the long run.

            I enjoy working near Chef Vivian. She is the closest to being a mother to me in the kitchen. She manages to see many of my flaws when I work: from crossing my feet when standing, calling out behind where ever I am, and forgetting to knock on the walk-in door when exiting. These are things though that I should know, but she’s there to remind me. She always tells me, “you can’t learn if you don’t make mistakes, but if you make the mistakes repeatedly, then something is wrong.”  When I do make noticeable mistakes in the kitchen, she corrects me and reinforces the correct way. I’m glad to have someone like her in my life.

            The moth story that was shared really had an impact on my mindset. I question if my helping hand is helping the team or slowing down the development of each individual. The whole idea, as explained by Chef Miya, is to let people struggle, to find their own way out of hard times. My question is how much help is good and how much may negatively impact the person? Or would they have done it if I were not there? I do tend to think, if I were in their shoes, of course I’ll take all the help I can get, but would that ruin my chance to come out of that cocoon, or will I still be able to fly in the end? I don’t know really, because those kinds of outcomes are only answered through experience. Only when they are truly in the dumps that Chef will jump in to save them, but what if they needed a few more seconds to collect themselves. Would they have managed to come out of the dumps on their own, if given just a little more time? Yes, the moth story really did give me a whole new idea of helping. Still, I will still help by permission given from my chefs.


Hamakua Heritage Farms

            Mr. Josh, after asking him what kinds of mushrooms Alan Wong’s use, gave me 5 answers of the 4 I only needed to know: shitake, pioppini, alii, shimegi, enoki, and maikake.

            Hamakua mushrooms were founded by Bob and Janice Stanga, who once worked as a Helicopter Pilot on Oahu (Bob) and as an Interior Designer for 27 years (Janice). They then had a complete career change, wanting to cater too a certain food group that no one would. According to fungaljunglecom, “By 2003, they had built a 16,000 sq. ft. facility that today produces nearly 4,000 pounds of mushrooms a week, employing 20 people from the Laupahoehoe area.” With their decision, they gave birth to a very successful gourmet mushroom farm, which caters to all over the islands and even the White House! The kinds of mushrooms they grow are Gray Oyster, Pepeiao, Pioppini, Alii, and more. They grow their plants in their environmentally controlled “laboratory” which is located indoors of their facility. They have multiple sterile rooms that give them the advantage to produce a variety of species. They also have the ability to spawn their mushrooms, which allows them complete control over the amount of mushrooms they grow, giving them the benefit of catering to their clients year round.  From images, they grow their mushrooms in mason jars, which is pretty cool and inventive.

            Shitake mushrooms are grown on oakwood. The other names include, ‘sawtooth oak’, ‘black forest’, ‘black’, ‘golden oak’, and ‘oakwood’. These mushrooms were cultivated in Japan, China, and Korea and have been there since prehistoric times. It is commonly used in cuisines of East Asia, usually in stir-fry. In Japan they use it in miso soup or a vegetarian dashi.