Let’s Talk Food: A lesson in running a business

  • Photo by BRIAN HIRATA Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa, 14, owner of Pa‘ina by Ocean, cooks Kona kampachi for a dish he made during a recent visit with Hawaii Community College’s Culinary Program.

  • Photo by BRIAN HIRATA The finished Kona kampachi dish made by 14-year-old chef and business owner Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa during a visit with HCC’s culinary students.

  • Courtesy photo While he is only 14 years old and already operates his own business, Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa’s dream is to be a chef like his dad, Jayson Kanekoa, executive chef of Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort. Ocean wants to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York and would love to be able to be able to intern with a few famous chefs.

  • Courtesy photo Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa, 14, operates Pa‘ina by Ocean, which started as an online and social media platform featuring cooking tutorials and farm interviews and tours. He contacted more farmers, fishermen and ranchers and created a box of assorted local fruits, vegetables and protein, called Pa‘ina Bags.

  • Courtesy photo Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa, 14, is owner of Pa‘ina by Ocean.

Kamaha‘o Ocean Kanekoa.

Remember that name.

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At age 14, he already has a business, Pa‘ina by Ocean. It started as an online and social media platform featuring cooking tutorials and farm interviews and tours. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed things.

In March 2020, when restaurants and hotels were shuttered, his dad, Jayson Kanekoa, the executive chef of Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, took Ocean with him to visit two of his most important vendors, JA Farms, known for their baby romaine, mixed greens and spinach, and Rincon Family Farms, growing the sweetest, most delicious strawberries.

Both farms shared that they were having difficulty selling their produce since no one was buying. Ocean watched as the vegetables were unpicked and then tilled back into the soil. He saw the strawberries left on the bush because there were no orders from the restaurants and hotels for them.

Seeing all this motivated Ocean into action.

He contacted more farmers, fishermen and ranchers and created a box of assorted local fruits, vegetables and protein, called Pa‘ina Bags.

At 14 years old, Ocean has already realized that running a business is hard work, taking a lot of dedication and time. There are no shortcuts. Only hard work. Work hard and be patient.

However, Ocean loves running his own business.

“I have a couple favorite things — working with the farmers and other purveyors. They have become friends now and l’m happy that we can help them out,” says Ocean. “My favorite thing is also the positive feedback from the community. So many people tell me how they are eating healthier at home, trying new products and recipes they wouldn’t normally buy. And I think our community as a whole is more aware of buying and eating local and knowing where their food comes from!”

I was privileged to be invited to tour the kitchen and talk to his dad at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. He showed me the greens he used for his salad from JA Farms. He was so proud of them, and said that these farmers were always thinking about their crops, seven days a week. That passion, he said, showed in their product.

I saw that enthusiasm and passion in Ocean that he inherited and learned from his dad, who he totally looks up to. Ocean feels his dad is his inspiration in the kitchen and has taught him all of his cooking techniques and knowledge. He also credits his dad for making him appreciate and value where his food comes from.

I have sat across from Chef Jayson and Ocean during a dinner and I know the feeling is mutual. There is a lot of love and respect that father and son have for each other.

Ocean’s dream is to be a chef like his dad. He would like to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York and would love to be able to be able to intern with a few famous chefs to gain more experience and knowledge in the culinary industry.

Under his belt are several culinary awards, including:

• 2018 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s Keiki in the Kitchen finalist.

• 2019 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s Keiki in the Kitchen champion.

• 2019 Hawaii Island Aloha Festival poke champion.

Ocean has learned so much already and has advice for any youngster.

“Everyone has a passion — follow it and work hard,” he says. “You may not think that you can make a difference, but you may just surprise yourself! You never know until you try.”

Thanks to the Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation and its executive director, Hayley Matson Mathes, Ocean and his sister, Jaydene, were recent guests of the Hawaii Community Culinary Program.

Ocean had a whole Kona kampachi, which he broke down. He kept the spine bones, and with 1 gallon of boiling water he made a fish stock. Once the stock started to boil, he lowered the heat to a simmer so the broth stayed clear and did not get bitter.

With 2-ounce cuts of kampachi fillets, skin on, and seasoned with salt and pepper, he placed it in a smoking hot pan with some vegetable oil, skin side down. During the entire cooking time the skin side stayed down. He used a spoon to drizzle the hot oil on the tops of the fish. He lowered the heat to allow the fish to finish cooking. In the meantime, he cut up a container of Hamakua Mushrooms ali‘i mushrooms in fourths and placed them in a hot pan with some vegetable oil, cooking them until they caramelized. When they were done, he poured in about 1 cup of the fish stock and added a few teaspoons of mushroom soy sauce.

The two fillets were plated, mushrooms with some stock were placed on top of the fish and he finished it with bean sprouts and chopped green onions.

Foodie bites

Hawaii Community College Culinary Program’s Bamboo Hale’s schedule is as follows:

• Today through Thursday: European and Italy special menu.

• April 20-22: European and German special menu.

• April 27-29: Closed.

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Call 934-2791 to order your $15 lunch, which includes an amuse-bouche, appetizer, soup or salad and dessert. Pickup times are from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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