Chef Hekili T Apao
Hekili T Apao is a Chef Instructor for the Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Hekili is an Alumni of UNLV, where he took advantage of his football and academic scholarships to obtain three Bachelor’s degrees in Hotel Administration, Culinary Arts Management, and Beverage Management. Hekili is the first of his family from Hawai’i to receive a college degree from a University.
After graduation, Hekili was asked to stay on with UNLV as an Executive Sous Chef to help run the new Catering Operations for the Hotel College. Here he honed his culinary skills under the guidance of his college mentor, Department Chair Claud Lamberts and Executive Chef John Gremo. After many joint events with Industry Chefs and leaders, Hekili was starting to get noticed. This led to his dream of traveling the world and learning different cuisines and cultures.
At the age of 25, he was offered the position as Head Chef for Blu Bar and Grill in Belmont, Bermuda. With his attention to detail and organization skills, he was able to open the restaurant one month ahead of schedule. Hekili returned to Las Vegas to aid in his father’s recovery from cancer. His father is now healthy and cancer free.
Once back in Las Vegas, Hekili’s career got interesting. He was asked to come back to UNLV, where he worked for a few years until the economic crises in 2008, when unfortunately, his position was absolved. He then started his own catering company and operated it till his second son was on the way. He sold the business and went to work for the Golden Nugget. Not quite his dream job, but Hekili made the best of his situation. He was surrounded by great Chefs, and once his responsibilities were done he would go and learn from them on their specialties. Hekili viewed this opportunity as a paid education.
Later Hekili was contacted by a recruiter from Maggiano’s. Here Hekili’s attention to detail and organization skills were on display once again. Within his first year, he elevated the kitchen assessment score to the second highest in the company. From there, he was asked to develop all BOH standards, train all new hires and Chefs. He was asked by UNLV to teach part time that eventually turned in to a full time position, which he gladly accepted. Hekili continues to expand his culinary and educator knowledge. He received his CEC, Certified Executive Chef, thru the ACF and now working on his second certification, CCE, Certified Chef Educator.
Chef Hekili Apao is from the Big Island of Hawai’i, although he attended Damien Memorial School, Kalihi, Honolulu, O’ahu.