February 24, 2020


Fresh Hama Hama oysters from Washington State and pan sautéed halibut were on the menu when multi-award-winning Seattle Chef/Restaurateur/Cookbook author Renee Erickson (see bio info below) visited the University of Hawai’i Maui College Culinary Arts program on February 20. More than two dozen students attended the demonstration and workshop which focused on seafood and sustainability, something at the heart of Chef Erickson’s brand and, of course, critical in the Hawaiian Islands.

Joining Chef Erickson was her husband and oyster shucker extraordinaire Dan Crookston. He taught the students proper technique while stressing the importance of remembering that the oysters are live animals and must be treated with respect. It was the first time most of the students had ever shucked an oyster and, for many of them, the first time they ever tasted one, too. They were positively wowed! Student Jennalyn Yadao was quick to catch on to proper shucking technique and proclaimed, “I’m addicted to these oysters!”

Chef Erickson also demonstrated proper fish butchery using halibut, how to make compound butter, and her method of sautéeing and butter-basting the fish.

UHMC Chef Instructors Craig Omori, Tom Lelli, and Peter Pak helped facilitate. The workshop was sponsored by the Hawai’i Culinary Education Foundation and organized by Executive Director Hayley Matson-Mathes.


About Renee Erickson

Seattle native Renee Erickson is a James Beard awarding-winning chef, author, and co-owner of multiple properties in Seattle, Washington:  The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, Barnacle, Bar Melusine, Bateau, Bistro Shirlee, Deep Dive, Willmott’s Ghost, Westward and several General Porpoise Doughnuts locations

Renee Erickson’s food, casual style, and appreciation of simple beauty is an inspiration to her staff and guests in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. In 2014 she published her first cookbook “A Boat, a Whale and a Walrus” to critical acclaim, finding itself on top reading lists while winning a 2015 PNBA book award (Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association) . . . the first for a cookbook.

– James Beard Award for 2016 Best Chef Northwest: The Whale Wins, Renee Erickson

– Bon Appetit Hot 10’s Best New Restaurants: The Walrus and the Carpenter

Photo captions:

1 – Live Hama Hama oysters

2 – Dan Crookston (Chef Erickson’s husband) shows students proper shucking technique

3 – Student Meili Jahja tastes her first-ever raw oyster!

4 – Student Sheila Marie Simon – a successful first shuck!

5 – Chef Renee Erickson works with student Amberlin Lee

6 – Chef Renee Erickson on making a compound butter

7 – Chef Renee Erickson talks about fish butchery

8 – Chef Renee Erickson and Dan Crookston fry oysters

9 – The delicious finished product

10 – Chef Renee Erickson demonstrates butter basting fish fillets

11 – Student Jennalyn Yadao is thrilled to know how to shuck fresh oysters

12 – Group shot following the demo/workshop

Photos courtesy UHMC Culinary Arts Program

January 23, 2020


OpenTable’s Top 10 Diners’ Choice Hawai‘i lists have been announced. And Leis Family Class Act Restaurant at the University of Hawai’i Maui College is the #1 Best Overall for both Maui and the state of Hawai‘i. The ratings are based on 400,000 new diner reviews posted on the huge online reservations hub. The Leis Family Class Act rating is 4.9 out of five stars based on 390 posted reviews.

The restaurant was also cited on the following lists:

State of Hawai‘i

-Best Food (#2)

-Best Value (#1)

-Notable Diners Choice “Great for Lunch” (#1)

Island of Maui

-Best Food (#2)

-Best Value (#1)

-Best Service (#8)

-Notable Diners Choice “Fit for Foodies” (#1), “Great for Lunch” (#1), “Neighborhood Gem” (#1)

All the cooking and all the service is done by UHMC Culinary Arts Program students under the supervision of Chef Instructor Tom Lelli and Dining Room Lecturer Mark Malone. “Our students give 110% every single semester. We’re very proud of them and we’re so happy they have the opportunity to enjoy this honor,” says Chef Tom. “It’s our goal to teach our students every day the value of service as good service accents the delectable cuisine that our chef and his team of students create,” adds Malone.

Lunch is served every Wednesday and Friday at the Leis Family Class Act restaurant while classes are in session. The restaurant is located on the second floor of the Pā‘ina Building on the UHMC campus.