Moulin Rouge

Oh-la-la! UH-MC Culinary Arts Program Noble Chef fundraiser kicks up its heels

Getting in the mood to serve you French food are UH-MC Culinary Arts Program chef students Lydia Yarofaichib (from left) Bristol Anae, Mark Gregg, Jayven Jacaine-Bonilla and Tiffani Figueroa. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

In recent years, gangsters and flappers roared in like the Twenties in a golden era of Hollywood theme and then a Hawaiian Renaissance flourished with edible chocolate ukulele centerpieces and more.

On Saturday, the University of Hawai’i Maui College Culinary Arts Program will kick up its heels for its annual Noble Chef fundraising gala by transporting attendees to a flamboyant, turn-of-the-century “Moulin Rouge” cabaret hall like the world-famous Parisian one.

The reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by sit-down dinner at 7 p.m. in a new venue: The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali. Student chefs will work alongside guest chefs and instructors to awaken the senses with the finest in French cuisine.

“We want to take our guests back to Europe to experience fine French food and entertainment. We have a nostalgic theme, French jazz music and a fabulous culinary evening planned,” says Mark Malone, an event specialist who also runs the front of the house at the Leis Family Class Act restaurant at the college. “We’ll have a jazz singer, pianist and, of course, cancan dancers.”

Post-impressionist artist Toulouse-Lautrec first painted Moulin Rouge onto the map of the Monmartre quarter of Paris back in the 1880s. Then Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra and Elton John sang it to soaring new heights over the decades. This century, an Australian-American film in 2001 starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor rocketed it to top of mind along with absinthe. (Hmm . . . word has it that Mark Nigbur of Hali’imailie Distilling Co. may have a line on this coveted spirit for the gala.)

The table settings at the sit-down portion of the gala will dazzle. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

“We’re also doing Fid Street gin cocktails and Pau Maui vodka cocktails that we make on island, and shipping in the absinthe,” says Hali’imaile’s master distiller Nigbur. “We are working on our own brand, but it hasn’t been approved by the government yet.”

“Besides everyone coming together at the Sheraton in a new and different spot, Noble Chef will be a little bit sexier than it has been in the past,” says Theresa Shurilla, UH-MC Culinary Arts Program coordinator.

Get ready to be tantalized with provocative centerpieces on each table and be dazzled with even more flirtatious imagery that depicts the decadent affairs of that era.

“It will be fine linen, champagne cocktails, black ostrich feathers and white hydrangea,” says Malone.

“We are going to go there, Carla,” chimes in Shurilla. “I’m really excited about the auction travel package, too,” she adds. “I wish I could bid on it as it’s something that I would totally do. It’s a French vacation to the Moulin Rouge in the fall of next year with hotel and walking tour. How cool is that?”

UH-MC student chef Chris Rego carefully plates an appetizer at last year’s Noble Chef gala.The students will be there in full force this year. UH-MC photo

As for the food, UH-MC instructors will man booths with their students at the reception. Strut around, see and be seen, and let Tom Lelli tempt you with gnocchi a la Parisienne. Craig Omori and Peter Pak will artfully arrange salad Nicoise with seared organic king salmon. Noel Cleary will cook lentils and Merguez sausage with grilled octopus in fennel-citrus vinaigrette. And Joe Tocci will shuck oysters on the half shell and serve with classic French mignonette, Provencal and Pernod-cream sauces.

Using local ingredients and classic French techniques, the student chefs are now working with professional mentors in various restaurants and with instructors at the university for hands-on training.

“The opportunity to be involved in the process from developing a menu item through the delivery of locally sourced, world-class cuisine prepares students as they learn by doing for their transformation into the next generation of professional chefs,” says Shurilla.

Other reception chefs include Benjamin Ross and Lee Anderson of Sugar Beach Events, who will make savory brioche bread pudding with blood-orange-and-cardamom creme Anglaise. Robert Barrera of Cane & Canoe at the Montage Kapalua Bay will do gougere, or cheese pastry, with lobster mousse, creme fraiche and caviar.

Zac Coltes of ROCKsalt at the Sheraton Maui will smoke lemon-oil Maui Nui venison. Travis Morrin of Three’s Bar & Grill and Fork and Salad outlets will do Pacific seafood bouillabaisse.

Former longtime host and benefactor Tylun Pang of Ko at Fairmont Kea Lani resort will wow with gigot d’agneau, or French leg of lamb, with bleu cheese, merlot and Hamakua mushrooms and toasted brioche. Geno Sarmiento of Son’z Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa will grill poulpe, or octopus. Alvin Savella and Kenneth Sniffen of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua will represent the Banyan Tree (now undergoing a renovation) with pressed foie gras, duck prosciutto and orange cotton candy.

Roger Stettler of Taverna Maui will take you on a journey to France via San Francisco with a cioppino seafood-tomato stew. Eric Purugganan of Plantation House will air-dry filet mignon and serve with black garlic au poivre and anchovies persillade.

“After sampling the appetizers, guests can cast their vote for their favorite, and the winning celebrity chef team will be recognized on stage for their unique creative presentation and blending of flavors,” says Shurilla.

That’s just the reception, folks. So do loosen tight-fitting bodices and waist coats (if you are so inclined to wear them) and get ready for the sit-down, three-course dinner prepared and served by the culinary students with Executive Sous Chef Taylor Ponte of The Mill House. It will be chilled Kona kampachi mousseline with fennel, orange and creme fraiche. Craig Dryhurst of Four Seasons Resort Maui will make the entree of Moulin-spiced duck breast and Keahole shrimp with Rouge blush.

“The evening will wrap up with a surprise dessert finale by Executive Pastry Chef Fabrice Benezit of Grand Wailea resort,,” says Shurilla.

It will be a “grand reveal” Pavlova of lemon curd, meringue, compote of fresh berries, vanilla ice cream and rice-water mint syrup. Oh yes, chocolate is a big part of the surprise grand reveal.

In addition, there will be special dessert gift presentations by UH-MC pastry department’s Shurilla and Pastry Arts Instructor Hannah Stanchfield.

“I just got new chocolate molds and we’re practicing on bonbons as we speak,” says Shurilla. “They will be placed at each table.”

Mixologist Aaron Acala-Mosley of the new Lineage Restaurant will create handcrafted cocktails from local Maui businesses. Besides Hali’imaile Distilling Co., Hawaii Sea Spirits will be represented.

MauiWines sparkling wine selections from Ulupalakua will be uncorked as will French wines by local distributers during the dinner courses.

Noble Chef is UH-Maui College Culinary Arts Program’s largest annual fundraiser. Its proceeds support education, student career advancement and community service. The funds are also allocated for scholarships, field excursions, internships, culinary competitions, program enrichment and enhancement, as well as for professional development for culinary faculty.

UH-MC Culinary Arts Program is an award-winner and housed in the state-of-the-art, 38,000 square-feet Pa’ina Building on the college campus in Kahului. It is open to the public for lunch on weekdays.

Noble Chef fast facts at a glance:

• What: The 22nd annual Noble Chef benefit for the UH-MC Culinary Arts Program. Savor food by 12 top Maui chefs and their student teams at the reception, then dine on three courses.

• Where: At the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali.

• When: Reception starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a sit-down feast at 6:30 or 7 p.m. in the resort’s ballroom.

• How much: Cost is $195 per person. Sponsors may buy tables of eight.

• For tickets: Call Marilyn Fornwall at 984-3261 or email her at