Christmas with the Chefs celebrates 30th year with sell out

  • Palamanui student Taylor Neufeld helped staff the culinary station for the Mauna Kea Resort during last year's event. (Kona Kohala Chefs/Courtesy Photo)
  • Suzanne Bearth, pastry chef and cookbook author who operated Suzanne's Bakeshop in Kailua-Kona for 20 years, offered decorated gingerbread creations at last year's Christmas with the Chefs. (Kona Kohala Chefs/Courtesy Photo)
  • Chef Peter Abacar, Kona Kohala Chefs vice president, offers decorated holiday cookies prepared at the West Hapuna Beach Resort at a past event. (Kona Kohala Chefs/Courtesy Photo)
  • Chef Clayton Arakawa, ACF Kona Kohala Chefs president, works side-by-side with Palamanui student Brittney Badua during the 2017 Christmas with the Chefs. (Kona Kohala Chefs/Courtesy Photo)

KAILUA-KONA — When Jean Hull created Christmas with the Chefs in 1989, the then associate professor of culinary arts at University of Hawaii Center-West Hawaii was looking for a way to give her students the money they needed for an education.

“When I first took the job teaching at the college, I could see the students could gather enough money for the first year, but not enough money for the second year,” Hull said. “And it’s a two-year program, and I wanted to make sure they got their degree.”

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Now celebrating its 30th year, Christmas with the Chefs is still going strong, and raising money for scholarships for the current culinary program at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui. Tickets for Saturday’s holiday event sold out as of Tuesday, which means plenty of money has already been raised for the students’ culinary education. Hull said a sell out has happened before, but not in the event’s most recent years.

“We’re done, and that’s a good thing,” event coordinator Kelly Drysdale said. “I think this is the fastest sell out ever.”

Originally called Christmas at Hulihee, the event has been through a few name and venue changes but its original mission has stayed the same. Ticket sales and sponsorships from Christmas with the Chefs go toward scholarships for culinary arts students at the college, as well as scholarships for high school students wishing to enter the culinary arts program and for additional education for American Culinary Federation Kona Kohala Chefs Association members on Hawaii Island.

This year’s Christmas with the Chefs is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Accompanied by live music and a silent auction, attendees of the event sample cuisine and holiday treats made by the members of the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Association.

Chefs in attendance include the King Kam’s Roy Basilio, Huggo’s Albert Asuncion, Kona Butcher Shop’s Connor Butler and Frank Kramm, Lava Lava Beach Club’s Beth Fuller, Hapuna Beach Resort’s Peter Abacar, Fish Hopper’s Pedro Almazan and local baker Suzanne Bearth, to name a few that will be serving up their custom dishes.

“I think what’s unique about this program is people get to move around and meet and greet one another, instead of being at a table and sitting the whole time and having just one chef,” Hull said. “They enjoy the uniqueness of tasting all these different presentations from different chefs.”

The silent auction at Christmas with the Chefs will benefit the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs and Jean Hull Endowment fund, which Hull created four years ago.

“The endowment goes to the entire culinary program, so they can use the money to go to competitions, buy wares and have guest speakers,” Hull said.

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Drysdale said supporting the culinary program at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui should be important to the Hawaii Island community, which relies heavily on the hospitality industry, and reaching 30 years of Christmas with the Chefs is something to be celebrated.

“It has had a few host changes, and has changed its name, but 30 years for any event is pretty significant.”