The Palamanui Palate: Students win fan’s choice awards during inaugural competition on Oahu

  • Lily Frazier, center, and Thomas Elarco, second from right, won the fan’s choice award for their recipes during a culinary competition last fall. (Hawaii Community College - Palamanui/Courtesy Photo)

As the old saying goes, “Competition breeds excellence.”

That’s why students in our culinary arts program participate in numerous competitions during their academic careers. Students learn skills like time management, teamwork, and perfect cooking, plating and organization. And they receive constructive criticism and coaching during competitions from some of Hawaii’s most renowned chefs.


Last fall, two culinary arts students at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui, Lily Frazier and Thomas Elarco — earned accolades at the inaugural University of Hawaii Culinary Institute of the Pacific Brewing Future Minds Statewide Competition. Their goal was to create a dish using Kauai Shrimp that paired perfectly with a Stella Artois beer. The entries were judged by chef Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s, chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Hawaii, chef Keoni Chang of Foodland Super Market, Ross Baechle of Stella Artois and Paul Bienfang of Kauai Shrimp.

Both Lily and Thomas were winners as their recipes took home fan’s choice awards.

Thomas prepared prosciutto-wrapped sautéed Kauai shrimp with Honaunau arugula tossed with lemon confit and Kamuela tomato coulis.

Lily prepared smoked Kauai shrimp on Okinawa sweet potato chip with Kealakekua avocado and Waimea lomi lomi tomato (recipe below). As the fan’s choice winners, they each received a $500 scholarship, and we all received a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses. Check out the link and video below for more details:

UH student chefs battle in statewide culinary competition

In addition to attending school, both students are already working in the industry. Lily is a baker at Daylight Mind Bakery and Café. Thomas is a cook IV at The Fairmont Hotel, Browns Beach House Restaurant.

Lily’s career goal is to own her own bakery. Thomas wants to open a restaurant focused on Hawaiian cuisine with a French twist.

“I want to show people that there is authentic Hawaiian cuisine, derived from the Hawaiian people, but make it look like a five-star dish,” Thomas said. “I want to show my culture through this restaurant.”

I see a bright future for Thomas and Lily. By pursuing their dreams with the same passion, hard work and positive attitude as they approach cooking contests, they will set themselves up for a lifetime of success.

Enjoy Lily’s award-winning recipe!

Smoked Shrimp on Sweet Potato Chip with Guacamole and Lomi Kamuela Tomato

Yield: 40 Pieces

For the Smoked Shrimp:

Brine Ingredients:

16 oz warm water

.8 oz salt

.6 oz sugar

1/8 tsp onion powder

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 oz lemon juice

40 Kauai or NELHA Shrimp,peeled and deveined


1. Mix all of the brine ingredients together until dissolved. Place shrimp in brine for 30 minutes before smoking.

2. Hot smoke the shrimp at 165 degrees for about 5 minutes.

3. Or, grill the shrimp for 1 minute on each side until the shrimp is opaque in the middle.

4. Reserve

For the Sweet Potato Chips: Yield 40 Chips


1 medium purple sweet potato, sliced thin


1 quart oil for frying

(You may also buy sweet potato chips already made).


1. Peel the potato and slice thin

2. Preheat frying oil to 350 degrees

3. Fry chips until the potato is crisp (about 3 minutes) When you still see some purple, it’s perfect.

4. Drain chips on a pan with paper towels and season with salt. Reserve.

For the Guacamole: Yield 1 Cup


1 cup (7.5 ounces) pureed avocado

2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

2 teaspoons lime juice

1 teaspoon minced jalapeno

½ teaspoon salt or to taste


1. Prepare ingredients as listed

2. In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients

3. Taste and adjust seasoning. You may add more jalapeno to make it spicy.

4. Reserve.

For the Lomi Tomato Relish: Yield ½ Cup


¾ cup (5 ounces) small diced medium Kamuela tomato

3 tablespoons small diced Maui sweet onion

1 tablespoon chopped green onion

½ teaspoon salt


1. Prepare all ingredients as listed and mix together.

2. Taste and adjust seasoning

3. Reserve.

To assemble:


Place the chips on a platter. Add a dollop of guacamole on each chip, a shrimp, and some lomi tomatoes. Garnish with cilantro or finger lime segments.

Paul Heerlein is an associate professor of Culinary Arts at Hawaii Community College – Palamanui in Kona and on the board of the American Culinary Federation Kona-Kohala Chefs Association.

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