Chef George Mavrothalassitis with some of the culinary students

Each year we honor our namesake, August Escoffier, with our Hawaii Escoffier Dinner. Our goal is to showcase not only the finest cuisine our islands have to offer—paired with exceptional wine—but also fine dining service, which only heightens a meal’s experience. This year we invited five culinary students to join us for our 2016 dinner at Chef Mavro, which took place on November 13. The following letter is a reflection of how a meal of this caliber—especially one with the incredible touch which only Chef Mavro and his team can provide—influenced this student in a way even we did not expect. We invite you to read it…

Culinary student guests with Dame Fern Yoshida (back row, left) and Dame Hayley Matson-Mathes (middle)

Dear Ms. Mathes,

I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity that you provided me and my classmates with. Dining at Chef Mavro’s was certainly something that I have wanted to do since becoming interested in the culinary industry, and being able to experience dinner there, with the members of LDEI, no less, was something of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

To be honest, before Chef Yamada brought it up with me, I had no idea that there was a society for women in the industry. Thinking back on the history and everything I have learned about the female presence in the kitchen, it is amazing to know that there is such a great network of support available to aspiring young chefs. Equally amazing is knowing that there are so many prominent female figures in the industry right now, as most of the big names tend to be male. It was inspiring to be able to meet people from different backgrounds, with different interests, all at different points in their careers.

In an effort to share this information with the rest of my peers, I wrote briefly about LDEI in the most recent culinary arts newsletter available to Leeward CC culinary arts students. Especially for the young women who have grown up with the idea that women do not belong on the line or only belong in bakeshop, and for those who are striving to reach their culinary goals, I thought it would be worth sharing with them that they are not alone. There are opportunities in the world — nationally and locally — and hopefully some of them become interested in pursuing it.

Dinner was amazing. I feel as though it opened my palate up to a different type of cuisine. I am very fond of traditional Japanese cuisine, so that is the flavor profile that I identify with the most. Being at Chef Mavro’s was unique. At first, I was underwhelmed. The food tasted good, but nothing really stuck out — I did not experience any “punch in the face” kind of flavor explosion that you might get at some other restaurants. However, it occurred to me that a lack of explosive flavors did not necessarily mean a lower quality food.

I took a moment and thought about the food, really just closed my eyes and tasted, and it came to me. It was delicious for different reasons. There is a subtlety to Chef Mavro’s food. Everything was very clean and fresh, and each element of each dish worked harmoniously to create a delightful course. The art is in the freshness of ingredients and the cleanliness of flavors. The cookery was spot on. (The chicken is probably the moistest I have ever eaten.) And those things are not easy to come by.

Essentially, having the opportunity to dine there helped to open my eyes towards other cuisines. Contemporary French is different from traditional Japanese. It made me think about food in a different way. Just because something does not scream out with flavor does not mean that it is not flavorful. Cookery, balance, taste — all those things are important in making a great dish.

It was also my first experience with wine pairings. I do not know much about wine, but I could definitely appreciate how the dry or sweet notes paired with the food. I could not really say why each wine worked well with the dish it was paired with, but I could tell you that everything complemented each other and it just worked.

Truly, it is an experience that I will never forget. Dining at Chef Mavro’s aside, I really appreciate the opportunity to meet such wonderful women and to hear some of their stories. That is definitely not something one can experience every day, and it is always a learning experience to talk with others who have already been down the path of student and then some.

Once again, thank you very much for the opportunity you presented me with.


Shaylyn Funasaki