The Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort and Spa, Waikiki Beach is now offering monthly cooking classes with their new chef de cuisine Colin Sato, who made it to the finals of the Marriott's 2018 company-wide cooking competition.
Sato, a native of Oahu, started off 2018 at a different Marriott property, The Royal Hawaiian, where he first entered Marriott International's Masters of Craft series. The event pits cooks and bartenders from properties in the United States, Canada, and Central and Latin America, more than 2,200 in all, against each other in separate cooking and mixology competitions. The series starts at each property, followed by regional contests, and then the finals held in Washington, D.C.
The task was always the same. Take the protein and produce from a mystery box and make the best dish you can in 30 minutes. Sato worked his way through the competition at the Royal Hawaiian, before winning the Oahu-wide contest, and then the regional stage when he cooked against chefs from Marriott properties all over the Aloha State.
In Washington, D.C., Sato won his semi-final round before losing in the last stage to a chef from the Cayman Islands.
"It was awesome to make it that far and represent Hawaii," Sato said. "Once we got to the finals the pressure really stepped up. There was a camera crew and an MC announcing what was going on and asking us questions as we cooked. They brought in some big name judges like Farmer Lee Jones and Mark Bittman. It was kind of big."
In between the multiple rounds of the competition, Sato took an opportunity to show more of his own style and creativity. The Moana Surfrider offered him their chef de cuisine spot, a step up from his sous chef role at Royal Hawaiian, and he switched properties in September.
Now, visitors can learn some of the techniques Sato used on his way to his second-place finish in the Masters of Craft competition in the new Moana Masters Cooking series. The hands-on cooking sessions cost $100 per person, and each lesson is followed by a multi-course lunch with beverage pairings. The classes are held once a month on a Saturday at noon.
The series kicks off Feb. 9 with "A Valencia Valentine," where participants will learn to cook a seafood paella which will be accompanied by a selection of "Old World" wines. Next, on March 16, there will be a seafood and cocktails class.
"My plan with that one is to show the class whole fish butchery," Sato said. "So we'll get a snapper or something like that and show them how to break down the dish, make filets and then cook it up with a vegetable side dish."
On April 13, to get ready for Easter, the class will be led by Moana pastry chef Carmen Montejo, who will instruct guests on how to make bunny treats and other sweet items. So far only the first three classes have been announced, but as long as demand is sufficient the plan is to hold the Moana Masters Cooking classes every month moving forward, Sato said.
As chef de cuisine Sato is tasked with overseeing signature restaurant Beachhouse at the Moana and this spring he expects to unveil a revamp of the menu.
Sato has spent his whole career in Hawaii, graduating from the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program and working at Alan Wong's among other notable restaurants before joining the opening team at The Modern Honolulu.
"The Beachhouse restaurant will stay in the steakhouse category, but I wanted to make sure it was distinct and not the same food you'd get in San Francisco or somewhere else," Sato said. "I want visitors who come to Hawaii to get a taste of Hawaii. My goal is to showcase local farmers, the proteins we can get here on the islands, and be a real farm-to-table restaurant."
The Moana Surfrider also does special wine and beer-pairing menus, and Sato said the first one he is involved with is coming up in March.
"The Royal Hawaiian was great but I was really executing other chefs' ideas and visions," Sato said. "At Moana, it's my chance to put out my own food. I'm excited for the chance to showcase my creativity. It's a nice change of pace to be the person making the calls."