what’s cooking at waipahu high school

Craig DeSilva
May 23, 2024
food

Waipahu High School senior Paul Ibous loves to cook. Adobo, pancit, and guisantes are just a few of the favorites he makes at home that are prepared from recipes passed down from his family from the Philippines.

But Ibous didn’t think about a future as a chef and restaurant owner until he started taking cooking classes through Waipahu High School’s Culinary Arts Program.

“This program has given me hands-on experience of preparing for a career in the restaurant industry,” he says.

Students run the school’s Marauder Cafe on the top floor of the newly built three-story Integrated Academy Learning Center, which includes a state-of-the-art restaurant-grade kitchen.


Waipahu High School's new Integrated Academy Learning Center opened in December 2023. 

The students plan meals from farm and barn to table. They choose the theme for a pre-fixe menu, order ingredients from local farms and other purveyors, and cook, plate, and serve the meals. They even sell baked goods and preserves that they make, and do the not-so-glamorous restaurant chores of washing dishes and mopping floors.


Each Marauder Cafe menu focuses on a theme, such as Southeast Asian cuisine.


Tableside service pouring housemade broth for the pho.


Vietnamese pho with meatballs and vegetables and Thai iced tea.


Lamb rendang with nasi kuning (Indonesian rice) and mango chutney.

“We want to make the experience here as real as possible to prepare them for the restaurant industry,” says teacher Elaine Matsuo, who helped rebuild the program when she started at Waipahu High School in 1995. “Even if they don’t go into the restaurant industry, this program teaches students important skills that they can use for the rest of their life.


Elaine Matsuo is the baking instructor at Waipahu High School.

Matsuo says students spend time after class working on their cooking techniques. “They’re constantly testing recipes until they get the flavors they want,” she says.


Banana tapioca dessert completes the meal.

The program has taken students abroad to places like Japan to learn about world cuisine. Students enter local food contests for college scholarship prizes. They help with special fundraising events. And they receive instruction and guidance from some of Hawaii’s top chefs and community college instructors who partner with the program.

“It’s encouraging to have them as mentors,” says Ibous, who'll attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York this fall.


Waipahu High School senior Paul Ibous will attend culinary school in the fall.


Waipahu High School's Marauder Cafe includes baked goods for sale.


Guests are treated to an ocean view of Pearl Harbor will dining at the Marauder Cafe. 

Marauder Cafe is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations are required. Email whs.culinary.arts.program@gmail.com or call 808-528-9458.

Proceeds help pay for the restaurant’s operating expenses and go toward scholarships.

PANKO CRUSTED PAN FRIED TOFU
Here’s a recipe provided by Marauder Cafe. It’s an easy, delicious dish that’s hot and crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. It takes two days to marinate so plan accordingly. But that extra time is well worth the wait. You’ll enjoy the burst of Asian flavor in every bite. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup panko flakes
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil

Marinade

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup low-sodium shoyu
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. minced ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. mirin
  • ¼ star anise
  • ½ tsp. white vinegar
  • ½ tsp. red wine vinegar
  • black pepper, pinch
  • red pepper flakes, pinch

Optional garnish

  • Green onion, chopped
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Sesame seeds
  • Chile oil

Instructions
Slice tofu into 3-inch long pieces. Drain in a strainer for 20 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Combine the marinade ingredients in a shallow dish and stir. Place tofu in marinade and refrigerate for one day. Turn tofu and marinate in refrigerator for another day.

After the second day, drain the marinade and pat tofu dry with a paper towel.

Place one side of the tofu in panko.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a pan. Fry tofu crust side down first until golden brown. Flip tofu and fry the second side.

Top with optional garnish.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Soups on
Here’s another recipe from the Marauder Café. Curry zucchini soup is one of the most popular dishes.

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