O‘ahu in 1957: A Hotel and Restaurant School Opens in Waikīkī
In the 1950s Hawai‘i’s hotel industry was booming but the state needed more cooks in the kitchens.
Photo: HONOLULU Magazine archives
In the 1950s, the visitor industry was on the move. From 1951 to 1956, the number of people coming to Hawai‘i more than doubled to 272,619, and the hotel industry was not prepared—especially when it came to meal time.
In 1952, the Territorial Department of Public Instruction (the predecessor to the Department of Education) opened a hotel and restaurant school in Hilo. The first graduating class comprised 50 chefs. After five years, the school moved to the banks of the Ala Wai Canal in Waikīkī. Here’s an excerpt from June 1957.
For the small fee of $20 a student receives an entire year’s training to become a full fledged chef and can look forward at some future day to earning upwards of $10,000 a year—top chef pay.
Heading the chef training is French food connoisseur Alf Sandberg, formerly at the Royal Hawaiian hotel and at leading establishments and resorts on the Mainland, transatlantic liners and army transports.
“I teach everything from soup to nuts, you might say,” Chef Sandberg pointed out. “I teach French cuisine, using the original and proper French terminology and wine in our dishes.”
Chef Sandberg devised his original course five years ago in Hilo for this school, which includes 645 hours in cooking and butchering, 245 hours in baking and dessert preparation, 245 hours in pantry and gardemanger (canopes, starters and garnishes), 120 hours in storekeeping and 245 hours in general vocational and related training.
Classes for chef-students begin at 7:30 a.m. every school day, and classroom instruction is given in the theory of cooking, the necessary chemistry and French and Italian words used in recipes.
After a forty-five minute class, food is prepared and served between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and following, everything is tidied up and put away.
Who eats lunch besides students and teachers?
John Public, of course. As a showcase and to give practical experience to cooks and waitresses and waiters, the school maintains the Ala Wai restaurant, serving luncheon daily. The cost to the customer is approximately $1.00 and for this he may have a choice of: roast stuffed tom turkey, braised choice short ribs, jardinière, rissole potatoes, namasu or Hawaiian Waldorf salad, braised choice ox joints, bourgeoise with potatoes, carrots, glaced onions, burgundy, chef’s deluxe bowl or racing king’s salad, sunrise fruit salad bowl, pineapple boat deluxe, mahimahi saute, remoulade sauce, bouillon potatoes, lobster a la Newburg en casserole, toast points and steamed rice, poached island fish with white wine and mushroom sauce or chicken braised with burgundy pearl onions.
Today, we see more than 9 million visitors a year and aspiring chefs can take courses with the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. The program at six community college campuses offers certifications in nine specialties ranging from baking to institutional food service management. Instead of the Ala Wai restaurant, diners can visit restaurants including Ka ‘Ikena Laua‘e at Kapi‘olani Community College and The Leis Family Class Act at Maui Community College to try dishes such as deconstructed squid lū‘au with a grilled sous vide octopus leg, lomi tomato and coconut cream gel or porchetta with rosemary spaghetti squash served with Argentina parsley sauce and cranberry jalapeño bacon jam. Menus change every few months. If you decide to go, bring a little more than $1 (dinner entrées at Ka ‘Ikena Laua‘e average about $35), and make reservations early.
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