LAHAINA — Lahainaluna High School 2000 graduate Mark Santiago was recently promoted to sous chef at The Westin Bellevue in Washington State.
Santiago now assumes second-in-command responsibilities to the executive chef at the hotel.
The son of Rosario and Patricio Santiago of Lahaina previously worked at the Hyatt at Olive Eight and the Bellevue Hotel in Seattle.
He gained his culinary experience and education at the Arts Institute of Seattle in their culinary program and at the University of Hawaii Maui College in the hotel and hospitality courses there.
“Growing up in Lahaina, I learned so much about the foods of many different cultures, and I gained an appreciation and love of cooking. I then made it my career choice,” he said recently.
“I’ve tried to remain broad-minded about my cooking — trying to use local cuisine tastes blended with Asian, German, Mediterranean and French influences. I learned the Pacific Rim style and try to use regional products that are in season in the recipes,” he continued.
“It is hard work, and I put in long hours arranging the menus for the restaurants’ two meals and for special banquets. I lead a diverse, ethnic staff, and we’re all constantly learning new things, so that makes it challenging, exciting and hard work.
“It is a challenging career, but I definitely enjoy it. For the kids out there with an interest in the culinary arts, I would advise them to be like a sponge and learn as much as you can from each chef you work with.”