Caf-goers said the smoked salmon carbonara prepared by Executive Chef John McDonald from BYU in Provo Dining Services on July 26 was "onolicious," choosing it over local favorite kalua pork with cabbage.
One constructor worker speaking Pidgin said, “The food is cherry brah.” Another said, “I never knew this place was open to the public. This is good food.”
Peni Kioa, a sophomore from Tonga studying biochemistry, said, “Man the food today is kind of special. It’s really delicious.” He added, “You know how Polynesians are: when the food is yummy, it fills your tummy. It’s pretty special today.”
Curtis LeFrandt, who grew up in Aiea and was visiting from Utah, said, “The food is ono. Broke da mouf.” Having gone to the Caf after doing temple trips as a youth, he brought his wife and four children to eat without knowing Chef McDonald was cooking.
“We wanted to come eat here, and the chef from BYU happened to be here. It was a pleasant surprise. I actually work at BYU at Provo, so I get some of his food on occasion. It’s always good,” said LeFrandt.
Chef McDonald prepared the special lunch for the BYU-Hawaii Club Dining Services as part of an initiative to feature guest chefs and to build on relationships between the two universities. “Basically the idea is that we come together and learn from each other and share ideas,” said McDonald, who said the visit came about from conversations about building a new dining center at BYUH.
Marilou Lee, the Club Dining facility manager, said, “Dean Wright, director of Dining Services at BYU, came to visit several times to help us out with our new planning design for our new cafeteria. In a couple of years, we will have a new dining services with a brand new building. We were asking for his recommendation for how to go along with that. From that correspondence, he invited me and Chef Tan to come to BYU to know about their facilities, how they function, and what’s working for their university so we can get some tips and incorporate it into our current services.
“We started saying, ‘Why not have the chef from over there come here and learn our specialties?’ In the mainland, it’s mostly American menus. So chef wanted to come here to learn about our local products, local produce, what the students are like here, and what do they want to eat.”
Chef McDonald chose the smoked salmon carbonara plate because he said it reflected his expertise in French cooking and also local taste buds and ingredients. Served with a slice of garlic bread, almost every person had the black square plate that the carbonara was served on sitting in front of them.
More than dozen of the Caf-goers were TVA couples, some of whom brought their children along.
Lee said this event was the first in a guest chef series the Caf wants to implement to make students feel special when eating on campus. “We don’t want them to feel monotonous at every meal. We want to do something different so that it creates excitement for them to come in here,” she added.
In the future, the Caf will have local vendors come cook or sample their products, said Lee. “We’re going to be asking our major food vendors to come and participate like D. Otani Produce, whether it be cooking or sampling their products or sampling their juices. There’s always going to be something going on here featuring our vendors.
The vendors won’t sell their products, said Lee, it will always be included with the price of entry at the Caf because “we’re just trying to highlight what we’re already using so our students know where the food comes from. If we’re going to have some kind of farm to table thing, the students can ask the growers how they’re farming their products.”
Chef McDonald said the exchange was mutually beneficial. For BYUH’s benefit, he said there was talk of getting a pizza oven for the new facility. For BYU’s benefit, he said, “One thing I saw here was the bim bim bop. I think I’ll take that back with us as an item we’ll use and incorporate.
“Also, we have a concept on campus called Aloha Plate. It won a national award last year from Chicago. We’re looking for ways to enhance that, increase menu offerings, and continue to make it more authentic.”
The plan is to feature one guest chef or vendor a month, said Lee. “Our first event for the Fall for back-to-school [celebration], we’ll be having our cereal vendor which is from MOM Brands (Malt-O-Meal).” The information on special events will be included on the Club’s special events calendar, accessible through Facebook, the Bulletin, and the Club website.
Lee said these special events are not exclusively for students. “This is open for everyone - the public, community, students, non-students, etc. Everyone is welcome, so spread the word,” she said with a laugh.