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Roy’s Aloha Kitchen Challenge

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Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Last week, my husband and I attended the “Aloha Kitchen Challenge” at Roy’s Restaurant in La Jolla, which felt a little bit like experiencing an Iron Chef event first hand (or an episode of Hell’s Kitchen where the head chef is a whole lot nicer!).

The “Aloha Kitchen Challenge” is actually a gourmet competition that Internationally-acclaimed Chef Roy Yamaguchi has been hosting at different Roy’s locations throughout the country (and more are in the works if you’d like to attend one of them!).

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

3 culinary students local to the area are partnered with top chefs from local restaurants, who act as their mentors for the event, then they compete for the chance to win a year-long internship with Roy’s expert chefs. The students were all from the Art Institute of San Diego: Grant Toraason, Athena Gilson and Bruce Ricketts – and they were paired with top chefs: Jason Knibb of NINE-TEN; Bernard Guillas of Marine Room; Brian Malarkey, of Oceanaire; and Garrett Mukogawa of Roy’s.

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Guests of the event are treated to a fun – and highly creative – 5-course meal, along with champagne and wine pairings for each course, if desired. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th courses were created by the 3 students, and all of the dinner guests + some special local celebrity judges voted on their favorite dish at the end of the meal.

Here are the 3 contenders… how great is the presentation on each of these dishes?!

2nd Course:
Ceviche of Scallop and Octopus
Melon Salad, Tempura Shiso Leaf “Taco”, Mango Vinaigrette

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

3rd Course:
Pistachio Sanyo Crunch Tasmanian Steelhead
Red Quinoa Filled Squash Blossom, Heirloom Melon Nectar, Gooseberry Kalbi

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

4th Course:
Duo of Pork: Ginger Beer & Cider Braised Pork Belly, Smoked Pork Loin
Thai Bird Chili & Peach Relish, Ogo & Green Papaya Salad

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

I have to say that every single dish was fantastic, so it was a tough decision… but my personal favorite did end up winning! Drumroll, please… the Tasmanian Steelhead dish (course #2) – so congrats to Athena Gilson! I would definitely order this dish again if it makes it on the menu – and the presentation of it was so wonderfully creative:

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Here’s Athena with her mentor, Chef Bernard Guillas and Chef Roy.

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

And a few more shots of the behind-the-scenes action:

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Celebrity guest chef (and former San Diego Charger) Marcellus Wiley was more than happy to help serenade guests for the evening…

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Chef Roy Yamaguchi actually sat down at the table and chatted with Sonny and I for a bit – and he was  incredibly nice and had such a calm, content spirit to him. (I’m thinking that living in Hawaii must make one extra happy, right?)  When asked about what the inspiration behind these event was, he said – quite matter of factly – that he simply wanted to inspire and encourage aspiring chefs, and that they really tried to make this a fun experience for the students, as opposed to a high-pressure situation. (Sorry – no Hell’s Kitchen-style drama here!)

Teaching and mentoring aspiring chefs has always been a passion of mine,” said Chef Roy.

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

I also asked Roy if he had any tips for novice chefs at home… and he said the best thing is to just “keep it simple” and not stress out over the dish. And honestly, that’s just fine by me. When I want something exotic like Pistachio Sanyo Crunch Tasmanian Steelhead, I’m more than happy to go out and leave it to the professional chefs… or in this case, to the students!

Roy's Aloha Kitchen Challenge

Visit to find a Roy’s location near you.

Photos by: Chaz Cruz

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POSTED BY:jenn s.JENNIFER SBRANTI is the Founder and Creative Director of Hostess with the Mostess®, a hip and modern party planning resource.

8 responses to “Roy’s Aloha Kitchen Challenge”

  1. Mandy says:

    I am so jealous! This looks like it was a GREAT event. I’m calling my local Roy’s today to inquire when this may be coming to Austin, TX!

  2. Melanie says:

    The shots of this event are wonderful!

  3. Those look so tasty! What a fun event! I’ll definitely have to look into going to one. My husband would love it.

  4. Backsplash says:

    omg…just stumbled upon your site, and now im starving!

  5. moderneve says:

    how fun! i wonder if they’re coming to the plano, tx restaurant? husband & i celebrated our 2 year anniversary there (in honor of our hawaiian honeymoon). the service was amazing!

  6. Down Pillow says:

    Looks like a fun time :) Everything looks so good, too – I’d love to try the ceviche.

  7. Everything looks sooo yummy. I am hungry now! :)

  8. Chaz Cruz says:

    Wow, I love the layout you did w/ my images, looks great! The Tasmanian Steelhead dish was my fave as well!