I’ll always remember the praise Cameron Linden received from the judges at the Hawaii Culinary Competition Expo in 2016.
In an auditorium crowded with hundreds of people the day after the competition, a master chef specifically mentioned the high level of fabrication and cookery skills Cameron demonstrated in her reinterpretation of Poulet Bercy, a classic French dish she prepared in a Vietnamese style.
Cameron also received a medal, but she was the only competitor to earn an extra mention from the judges during the verbal analysis, and the comment prompted applause from Cameron’s peers. I was extremely proud to be her coach and will always remember this experience.
Cameron graduated from the Hawaii Community College — Palamanui Culinary Arts program in 2016, and her academic career since shows that culinary arts alumni can take many career paths in addition to working in restaurants, hotels and as chefs for private clients. As she pursues her master’s degree, her goal is to become a registered dietitian, a trend that could become more common as the population ages and doctors and chefs collaborate to create “total wellness.” As the maxim attributed to Hippocrates goes, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
I caught up with Cameron by email recently, and was ecstatic to hear of her evolving career path. What follows is an interview with her and her healthy recipe for Chicken Yakisoba (her Vietnamese-style Poulet Bercy was ono but also very complex). Enjoy!
Paul Heerlein: What degrees have you completed?
Cameron Linden: I have completed my Associate in Applied Science in Culinary Arts at Palamanui and my Bachelors of Science in Culinary Nutrition with a concentration in Dietetics at Johnson &Wales University.
PH: What degree are you working toward? What are you studying?
CL: I am working toward my Master’s in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Washington State University. I am in the Coordinated Program of Dietetics, meaning that I am working on my master’s degree while going through the dietetic internship.
PH: What are your favorite classes?
CL: My favorite classes have been biochemistry, athletic performance cuisine, vegetarian cuisine and medical nutrition therapy.
PH: What is your dream job?
CL: My dream job would be something that allows me to work with individuals long-term, focusing on cooking nutritionally and developing exercise plans. I really enjoy seeing people improve and helping them in their journey. One of my future goals is to become a Registered Dietitian.
PH: What courses/activities did you enjoy at Hawaii CC – Palamanui?
CL: I loved being able to compete in culinary competitions, such as the Hilo Culinary Classic, Kona Coffee Festival and the Hawaii Culinary Competition Expo.
PH: How did Hawaii CC – Palamanui prepare you for the course work you are now taking?
CL: Palamanui gave me the culinary foundation that has allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. While completing my undergraduate degree, I worked as a personal chef for two families that had specialized diets. With the knowledge and skills I acquired at Palamanui, I was able to develop recipes for these families. I also have a better understanding of food overall, which gives me an advantage in the dietetic world.
PH: What did you like about the culinary program at Hawaii CC – Palamanui?
CL: I loved the culinary program at Palamanui. The small classes create a great learning environment that allows the students and instructors to develop strong, professional relationships.
Cameron, we wish you all the best in all your future endeavors! Please come by the campus on your next visit to Kona, and if you have time please share some success stories with our students.
Yield: 4 servings
Protein: 5g Fat: 5g
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. chicken breast
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. oil, divided
6 ea. Shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small onion
1 carrot, julienned
2 cups cabbage, julienned
12 oz. Yakisoba noodles, fresh
2 scallions, julienned
1. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, mirin, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine the sliced chicken with 2 tsp cornstarch and 2 tsp oil. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a wok or non-stick sauté pan over high heat. Add the chicken in one layer and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over and cook another 2 minutes, remove from the wok/sauté pan, and set aside.
3. Add 2 Tbsp of oil to the hot wok sauté pan and add mushrooms, onions, carrot and cabbage. Stir-fry for 2 minutes and then add the noodles, chicken, and the sauce mixture. Continue to stir-fry the mixture for another 2-3 minutes until the noodles are heated through. Add the scallions, toss and enjoy!
Paul Heerlein, CCE, CCC 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.