Corps Values: Maui Job Corps

For Larry Tuzon, training tomorrow’s chefs is Job One.

maui culinary arts job corps
Plating is part of the lesson Chef Larry dishes out. Here, grilled ‘ahi with shiitake-mushroom salsa pairs with a rosette of purple sweet potato on blanched asparagus.

As they plate and present their dishes, each student describes his or her contribution to the lunch. A beaming seventeen-year-old Marshallese named Peterson Basin tells us about the bread rolls just as I break one in half, breathing in the sweet richness of the dough that he baked this morning. “It’s got flour, eggs, butter, sugar, yeast and milk in it.” When Chef Larry asks him to share his story about joining Job Corps, Peterson admits he had difficulties in adjusting to its stringent academic demands, but the culinary program made it all worthwhile. He adds, simply but exuberantly, “I want to be a baker.”

gourmet food
Fresh mango salsa caps the rare-seared Cajun ‘ahi filet.

Jovalee Augustine, from Palau, and Jyra Yibuw, from Yap, have been accepted into the San Francisco MTC for advanced training. They confidently explain what they’ve prepared. “My dish is an Asian salsa with shiitake mushrooms and it is served on the grilled ‘ahi,” says Jovalee. Jyra follows with, “I made the fresh papaya salsa and it is garnishing the Cajun-spice seared ‘ahi.” As I listen to the presentations, I marvel at the enthusiasm of the students, their poise and humility.

In 2018, MTC named Larry Tuzon Instructor of the Year, an award that recognizes exceptional service to Job Corps students. Marshall Norman, site director for Job Corps Hawai‘i’s Maui campus, announced the honor, saying, “Larry has the heart to see the marginalized and at-risk become leaders and experts in the culinary field. His approach to learning and student develop is inclusive of all students, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, learning capacity or disability . . . [treating each of them] with the utmost respect, fairness, and gratitude.”

His students have a more boisterous way of praising their mentor. Before Mieko and I depart, I ask, “Is Chef Larry a good teacher?” The question raises a happy hubbub: “He’s the best!” “Chef is the bomb!” “He cares about us!” “We love Chef Larry!”

Web-exclusive: Learn more about Job Corps’ program, and hear from the students in the video below.

Papaya Salsa Recipe

by Jyra Yilbuw


  • 1 large, ripe, firm papaya, diced
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ c. Sriracha sauce
  • ¼ c. cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method Mix gently in a bowl. Adjust seasonings.

Spicy Asian Salsa Recipe

by Jovalee Augustine


  • 2 Tbsp. dark-roasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, ¼” dice
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. mushroom soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Asian hot chile sauce (preferably
  • Sriracha brand)
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
  • 2 scallions, tops sliced thinly on a bias
  • ½ onion, minced

Method Mix gently in a bowl. Adjust seasonings.



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