Maui Food and Dining

Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class Brings the Heat

October 9, 2015, 11:26 AM HST
* Updated October 9, 1:45 PM
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Chef de Cuisine Ben Marquez knows how to power through a bustling breakfast or dinner rush at Andaz Maui’s Ka‘ana Kitchen. But leading the first cooking class in Ka‘ana Kupboard’s new series, packed to the max with 20 students, he may have been just as busy.

“It was kinda like a party, really like a backyard barbecue and whoever shows up, shows up. But more importantly, it’s the sharing of ideas,” explains Marquez. “The backyard barbecue is not about the food ’cause the food’ll be great; it’s more about the people that make it great. Until we actually have the food, we sit down and talk story. Really, that makes it a little bit different.”

The debut class on Saturday, Oct. 3 had the theme of Backyard BBQ, where Chef Marquez shared new methods of grilling and taught students how to make go-to rubs and marinades. The students’ menu included Kula asparagus tomato salad, beer chicken, hibachi flat-iron steak and steamed Onaga with soy and ginger. There was even a station on making ‘Smores marshmallow treats. Chef Marquez also taught students about island spices like Moloka‘i black lava salt and other specialty items that are close to home.

“I really wanted to feature local products, so there was some local Kampachi that we had,” Chef Marquez explains. “We used Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter for the beer chicken, of course the local fish literally caught 15 hours ago off our shores that we use for the class. The mushrooms all came from the Big Island, Kamuela tomatoes from the Big Island, and we really wanted to keep it farm-fresh for everybody to try. But it’s really how we take that idea and that food and we let that dictate the menu.”

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Kula Asparagus Tomato Salad at Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Kula Asparagus Tomato Salad at Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Ka'ana Cupboard cooking student Yvonne Manupuna from Kihei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Ka‘ana Cupboard cooking student Yvonne Manupuna from Kihei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Fish prepared by students in Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class at Andaz Maui. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Fish prepared by students in Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class at Andaz Maui. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Student grills in Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Student grills in Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Chef Ben Marquez teaches students in Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Chef Ben Marquez teaches students in Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Fresh ingredients for Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Fresh ingredients for Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

'Smores station at Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

‘Smores station at Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Chef de Cuisine Ben Marquez, instructor of Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Chef de Cuisine Ben Marquez, instructor of Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Ingredients for Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class at Andaz Wailea Resort. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Ingredients for Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class at Andaz Wailea Resort. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Students eat the food they cooked at Ka'ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Students eat the food they cooked at Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Class. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

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Marquez says local suppliers, fishermen and farmers have a direct, daily impact on his culinary creations. Some menu selections at Ka’ana Kitchen, open from 6:30 to 11 a.m. for breakfast and 5:30 to 9 p.m. for dinner, are constantly evolving, based what’s fresh and available.

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“The breakfast menu selections change every day—superfood muffins, pancakes of the day, all those things change every day, as well as the fresh fish and the different types of items and the vegetarian things we have at night change every day,” he says.

As chefs get creative with new ingredients, culinary students did the same with not only the food, but also the tools they used to cook it. Marquez says they made five different dishes on five different pieces of equipment, including an outdoor roaster known as a China Box, portable Hibachi, charcoal grill, professional gas grill and flat-top griddle.

“It’s very, very different than the equipment they have at their own house,” Marquez explains, “but now they can take that idea and take it home with them and use it to cook better meals in their home. The different things we do in the kitchen, the skewering, the kabobs, the cooking of certain items; we talked about it from a professional perspective and then we passed those secrets onto them, too.”

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The class roster was a mix of visitors and locals. Student Yvonne Manupuna from Kīhei says the tips and tricks will help her and her husband, who love to grill. They replaced their typical date night with the cooking class to tackle a new skill together.

“We learned how to steam, some tips on our hibachi, we cooked quite a few things; chicken, steak, two types of fish, we learned quite a bit of things,” she says. “The Wagyu steak, that was really great, and then simple grilling of the vegetables, to highlight the vegetables and not to overpower it with different things or different types of vegetables, and then using the local ingredients as well.”

Marquez says with so many students at various levels of cooking experience, he was pleasantly surprised at how well everyone did, and how much information they retained by the end of class. Using just four or five simple ingredients, they were able to experiment, almost like in a science class, then sample the food they made. The key? They did it themselves, and didn’t depend on the pros to cook it for them. You can’t get any more hands-on than that.

“It came out really well and, more importantly, the people really enjoyed it and it was good food that they made, not I made. So they actually got to make their own food, make the mistakes, improve, and that’s really how we become better cooks.”

The Ka‘ana Kupboard Cooking Classes will continue on the first Saturday of each month, from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Andaz Resort Maui in Wailea. Each class costs $75 per person, with around 20 seats available.

Next up? The Nov. 7 class is called “Don’t be Chicken,” and will share tips for handling and cooking an entire chicken yourself, as well as using the best cuts for certain dishes. On the menu: grilled chicken with Hamakua mushroom and capers, curry chicken salad and Kula corn and chicken chowder.

“The chicken is made up of several different parts that get cooked differently,” Marquez explains. “It’s a cost-effective product; you buy a whole chicken, it’s a lot cheaper than buying different components of a chicken—four chicken breasts wrapped in a package—it’s a lot cheaper than that. So we want to talk to them about being frugal, saving some money maybe but making great dishes, too.”

On Dec. 5 comes Ka‘ana Kitchen’s Modern Luau. which will put a twist on traditional favorites like laulau, kalua pig, salmon poke and pipikaula.

Classes will continue through much of 2016, with topics like homemade pasta and “Rack and Roll” modern sushi. Call (808) 243-4703 or email [email protected] to register.

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