Marauder Cafe serves up culinary learning experiences

The Marauder Cafe is synonymous with Waipahu High School’s Culinary II course, designed to prepare students for positions in the culinary arts.

Through the course, students learn and apply customer service, food preparation, and budgeting skills. While the Marauder Cafe is the culminating activity for the Culinary II students, there are other real-world experiences that the students engage in, such as catering for events. Culinary I and II students are required to earn the ServSafe Food Handler certification to work in the kitchens.

Culinary II students may soon be required to earn the Food Safety Managers Certification, which at least one staff member in a restaurant is typically expected to possess.

In addition to these certifications, students are able to earn scholarships through funding from business partners.

Some of the Marauder Cafe’s partners include Chef Mark Noguchi, culinary consultant for Pili Group LLC and co-founder of Chef Hui; Amanda Noguchi, founder and creative director of Under My Umbrella Inc., co-founder of Pili Group LLC and Chef Hui; Chef Chai Chaowasaree of Chef Chai; Chef Kevin Nakata, Executive Chef for the Waialae Country Club; and Chef Kelvin Ro, a Waipahu High School alum and owner of Diamond Head Market and Grill.

Culinary II students have the opportunity to earn internships and scholarships from these business partners, or through competitions.

Waipahu culinary students have participated in competitions such as the Aloun Farms Mahi’ai Culinary Competition and the Localicious Recipe Contest.

In the 2021 Mahi’ai Culinary Competition, Patrick Caogas and siblings Sedrick and Shaina Rangunjan won official chef coats and gift cards to ChefZone, a store that sells food products, supplies, and kitchen accessories.

In the Localicious Recipe Contest, Leianne Paulo was awarded second place in the high school division and received a $200 scholarship.

Last year, Abby Cortez competed in an FCCLA Baking Star Event. Cortez won first place in the state competition and second place in the national competition. Caogas says through his competition he “gained the thrill of working in culinary and secured a place in my heart for competing, especially with amazing people.”

Jeanette Nakano was the first culinary arts teacher at Waipahu High School in the early ‘70s. She built the restaurant room that now houses Marauder Cafe. However, after her retirement, the room was used for different purposes.

Elaine Matsuo helped bring the culinary program back to life when she started teaching at Waipahu High School in 1995. She taught students techniques, cuisines, and dishes that they wanted to learn.

Matsuo took cooking workshops at Leeward Community College and Kapi’olani Community College, which often took place on weekends and evenings. After each workshop, she taught her students what she learned.

The Marauder Cafe and the Culinary II course are interdependent. Culinary students come up with recipes to be used in the Marauder Cafe during the first semester. After narrowing down which three cuisines they want to feature, they then create complete menus that include a soup, entree, appetizer, salad, and dessert.

The Marauder Cafe typically hosts sit-down events to showcase the three different cuisines of their choice. However, due to COVID concerns, they hosted a drive-thru pickup to feature French cuisine this March. Students, faculty, and community were invited to reserve orders. Each order included French onion soup, ratatouille, salade lyonnaise, mushroom galette, braised beef, and a strawberry cream puff.

After the DOE made modifications to COVID-19 rules for schools, the Marauder Cafe hosted their first sit-down event of the 2021-2022 school year. On April 8, they opened their doors to present Thai dishes to faculty, staff, and other guests. The menu included green papaya salad, summer rolls, Kauai shrimp pad thai, chicken coconut curry, and Thai tea boba ice cream.

This year was special for students involved in the Marauder Cafe not only because these were the first culinary events following the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because for the first time, Culinary II students collaborated with students in the Business Management and Hospitality courses. These students, also taught by Mary Julie Madarang, helped design, coordinate, and promote the drive-thru and sit-down events.