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James Beard Award-Winning Chef George Mavrothalassitis holds an onaga, or long-tail red snapper, as he leads the “Hook to Plate” workshop at the Hawai'i Community College – Pālamanui campus in Kona.

Hook to Plate: Local Culinary Pros Convene for Workshop All About Fish

A renowned Hawai‘i chef and an expert on Hawai‘i’s fishing industry teamed up on June 12 to share their knowledge about local catch during a workshop at the Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui campus in North Kona.

Seventeen culinary professionals from restaurants in West Hawai‘i joined James Beard Award-Winning Chef George Mavrothalassitis and United Fishing Agency General Manager Brooks Takenaka to learn about fishing methods; how to break down fish to maximize the bottom line; preparation of different fish species; cooking techniques; and more.

For Bryan Nagao, the Chef De Cuisine at Manta, a restaurant at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, it was interesting to learn about more about the fishing industry, especially given how much fish Manta serves. 

“Our customers come here to experience Hawaii products like mahi, opakapaka and onaga, and they love poke,” Nagao said. “It was interesting to get a different look at products we serve and the process of how it’s regulated.”

The workshop was presented by the Hawai‘i Culinary Education Foundation (HCEF), a nonprofit organization that provides Hawai‘i culinary students and professionals with access to cutting-edge knowledge and techniques. Mavrothalassitis, also known as Chef Mavro, is an HCEF board member.

After attendees learned from Takenaka about the fishing industry, Chef Mavro demonstrated four recipes using different types of fish and preparation methods.

Peter Abarcar, Jr., the executive chef at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, said the workshop was important for connecting the next generation of culinary professionals with people like Chef Mavro, who have tremendous passion for the art of cooking and were foundational to developing Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine.

“He’s part of that passionate group that started it all in Hawai‘i,” said Abarcar.

Associate Professor Chef Paul Heerlein leads the Culinary Arts program at Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui, which offers associate degrees and certificates.

Heerlein said hosting the workshop is part of his effort to build a stronger connection between the Culinary Arts program and local chefs.

“I want Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui to be a place where we not only teach high school and college students, but also a place that offers professional development classes for industry chefs,” Heerlein said. “Doing so can benefit local professionals, it can benefit our students by creating connections for them with people already working in the industry, and it can elevate the hospitality industry overall, which plays such an important role in the West Hawai‘i community.”

The Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui Culinary Arts Program is currently accepting applications for the Fall 2023 semester. The deadline to apply is August 8. To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit or email Heerlein at