Wāhine Chefs

Who says women can’t take the heat?

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Abby’s comment resonates with Kau, who says, “Right now, my main goal is continuing to learn and incorporating that knowledge into my daily work in the kitchen. I don’t have a formal culinary education, so it’s my responsibility to ask questions, research and practice new techniques. For the past year, I focused on executing the menu the executive chef [Geno Sarmiento] created for Nick’s during my training. This year, I’m modifying it slowly to fit my own cooking style, ideas, and my culinary team.”

Kaulani Akina
“I felt I needed to work harder than the boys to prove I belonged in the kitchen. I started going to the gym to lift weights. I try to make sure no one can say I’m the weakest link.” – Kaulani Akina

Tanya turns to me with a question: “Do you remember the time you came to Pailolo Food Truck at Westin Kā‘anapali  [Ocean Resort Villas], where I was working as a cook? You told me something that changed my life: ‘I want to see you as the chef here one day.’ I strived harder than ever to be better at my job.” She worked her way up to sous chef at The Westin’s Auntie’s Kitchen before moving to The Ritz-Carlton and a promotion to chef de partie at The Banyan Tree—where she was recently appointed sous chef.

In 2016 Tanya added even more to her plate by launching her own cookie company, Lala Sweets—where she’s paying it forward to the next generation of wāhine in the kitchen. “I started the business so I could work with my daughters. I needed to find a way to invest in their lives and to teach them skills. The Lala’s cookie recipe we use is five generations deep, from my great-grandmother. We bake the cookies, then my daughters run the booth at Makawao Third Fridays, or ho‘oulu [raise funds] for Hawaiian immersion school, and we also supply sweets for private events.”

risotto pak choy scallops
Chef Kau’s creamy risotto and sautéed pak choy surround seared scallops and pork adobo in a soy-vinegar reduction.

Abby articulates the feelings the three women share: “We’ve all worked hard and long hours, sacrificing a lot. But we are thankful to be in our positions. I have so much gratitude and appreciation for all the female cooks and chefs [who] have paved the path for me to pursue this career.” Then she adds, “I have been fortunate to work with great people [who] are supportive of me, allowing my work, not my gender, to define me.”

FIND THEIR RECIPES ONLINE – COMING SOON! Our thanks to the chefs for sharing these recipes: from Kaulani Akina, grilled tako (octopus) and pohole fern salad at MauiMagazine.net/octopus-salad-recipe; from Tanya Doyle, squid lū‘au at MauiMagazine.net/squid-luau; and from Abby Ferrer, inasal at MauiMagazine.net/inasal-recipe.

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