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Top chef: Waikoloa Village resident honored at HRA Hall of Fame Gala

Updated: 
October 5, 2017 - 5:14am

WAIKOLOA VILLAGE — Olelo Pa’a Faith Ogawa, a Waikoloa Village resident, was among 12 food aficionados celebrated at Hawaii Restaurant Association’s (HRA) 11th Annual Hall of Fame Gala Sept. 18 in Honolulu.

The sold-out event brought together people from across the state and beyond to pay tribute to those who have helped create and shape Hawaii’s culinary scene. Other inductees included seven recipients from Oahu, one from Kauai and another from Maui.

“I was surprised when I learned I was one of the winners,” Ogawa said. “At the event it was nice to see my peers, teachers, former chefs, restaurant owners and other people I knew when I started my career.”

Ogawa has sharpened her culinary skills as an accomplished chef for nearly four decades. For the past 25 years she has been a private chef, and just last year she expanded her knowledge to become a holistic life coach for her company, Glow Hawaii.

Her first job was at Dole Pineapple Cannery in Honolulu during the summer months as a junior and senior in high school.

“I trimmed the ends of a pineapple as it was going down a converter belt,” Ogawa said. “I still can remember the smell of fresh, sweet pineapples. Now this cannery is gone and our pineapple industry has dwindled.”

After high school, she attended Leeward Community College.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to major in so I went to see a counselor who gave me an interest test. The results were that I enjoyed doing things with my hands, cooking and art, so I enrolled in the culinary program at the college,” Ogawa said.

She then attended Kapiolani Community College, and while in school worked part-time at several small restaurants as a pantry worker and cook.

“I gained experience and learned from every job I have worked at,” Ogawa said.

After graduating she worked as a line cook at Pagoda Restaurant.

“It was a very popular restaurant in Honolulu with koi swimming in the ponds that the restaurant was built around,” Ogawa said. “I learned to sharpen my line cook skills, which is an art. The restaurant was very busy every night. To prepare so many dinners and stay focused with so many food orders coming took skill and concentration. It was fun to work on the line.”

During that time she also worked at Spencecliff Corporation’s flagship restaurant, Yacht Harbor Restaurant.

“I was about 21 years old and working at two places to save money so I could go on culinary tours during the summer” Ogawa said. “I traveled with the University of Hawaii to different parts of the U.S., Asia and Europe. These trips opened my eyes to new cuisines and it got me excited about food.”

Spencecliff supported her and her team to enter culinary shows.

“One year we won a gold medal for a vegetable carving display,” Ogawa said.

Soon after she was offered an opportunity to work as an executive sous chef at the Regent of Fiji as an expatriate.

“I love adventure, so I decided to go for it,” Ogawa said. “It was eye-opening to work in another country and adapt to new cultures and their way of life.”

While still in Fiji, Ogawa met an American businessman that wanted to open a Fiji franchise business in Hawaii called the Hot Bread Kitchen.

“It was a very successful business selling hot bread throughout the day. I opened their business in Waianae,” she said.

Ogawa was then welcomed back as the chef at Yacht Harbor Restaurant and later taught for several years in the Kapiolani Community College’s Culinary and Hospitality program before making her way to Hawaii Island.

“I worked at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows in the front of the house as a restaurant manager,” she said. “It was different from working in the kitchen, however I enjoyed engaging with the guests and learning about the restaurant business.”

Ogawa then joined The Ritz-Carlton, Mauna Lani’s opening team as a restaurant manager, and next worked at Mauna Lani Resort for five years.

Not long after she was asked to do private chef work on the coast.

“It started with one client, and then through word of mouth I started to build my clientele,” Ogawa said. “I enjoyed having the ability to get fresh produce, seafood and meats from our amazing farmers, prepare dishes using my creativity and sharing the story about Hawaii.”

She also shared her expertise as a chef consultant at the North Hawaii Community Hospital.

“I guess I always wanted to contribute to improving the health of our community,” Ogawa said. “There, I learned to do healing touch, an energy basic healing modality. I got interested in holistic healing by eating whole foods, meditating and using energy in my cooking. Some of my clients would tell me my food was healing.”

Last year, she took holistic life coaching training from Hay House Publishing’s best-selling author and radio host Alan Cohen.

“He is sincere and the perfect teacher for me, and now lives with his wife, Dee, and his six dogs on this island,” Ogawa said. “I am using my knowledge with food, energy healing and meditation through my holistic spiritual life coaching. I believe that food is medicine and we have the ability to heal naturally.”

Born and raised on a sugar plantation in Waipahu, Oahu, Ogawa has gone back to basics she learned from her Okinawan grandmother, who was a farmer.

“We ate only fresh product — Okinawan spinach, purple sweet potato, potato leaves, soybeans, fresh peanuts, lettuce, green onions, daikon, tofu, fish, poi, kalo leaves, guava, lilikoi, mountain apple, mangos and lychee,” she said. “My siblings and I rarely got sick eating whole foods, staying active in nature and living a wholesome life.”

She continued, “With the shortage of doctors in Hawaii, it is important that we pay attention and start learning to take care of ourselves and take preventive measures in sustaining our health and wellness. When we do this, we build a healthy, happy and thriving community.”

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