Leeward CC Professor Receives Masaki and Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award

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    HONOLULU – Tommylynn Benavente, a culinary arts professor at Leeward Community College, has been named recipient of the Masaki and Momoe Kunimoto Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Career and Technical Education.

    Established by Tadashi and Elizabeth Nakaeda Kunimoto in honor of their parents’ role in developing the Hawai‘i food industry, this award recognizes a faculty member or student from one of the UH community colleges for outstanding achievement and contribution to vocational and technical education.


    Benavente has served as the coordinator of the Culinary Arts Program since 2004 and guided the program through the challenges of curricular changes, major facilities renovation, community outreach, fundraising and national accreditation. During extensive renovations, Benavente worked with island chefs and developed externships for her students to avoid disruption of their academic progress. These externships became an integral part of the Culinary Arts Program enabling students to work with some of Hawai‘i’s best-known chefs.

    Her desire to build strong community connections have resulted in fantastic exposure for the college as well as numerous opportunities for the culinary arts students, such as on-campus workshops, and most importantly, jobs.

    One of Benavente’s most impressive efforts in fundraising and program development is the transformation of the annual spring fundraiser, Lʻulu, into a program showcase. She re-envisioned the event to better reflect the quality of the program and its students. The event takes place in and around culinary facilities, with the culinary arts students taking a more prominent role alongside top chefs of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine.

    She also managed the arduous task of revamping the program’s curriculum ensuring that the program reflects the most current industry standards and aligns with other UH culinary arts programs. Benevente is credited with being a superb mentor to all the new faculty members. Her dedication and ability to lend her valuable support has been instrumental in building a cohesive team at Leeward Community College.

    Benavente will be recognized for her achievements along with other UH award recipients at the annual Convocation ceremony to be held in the fall at the UH Mānoa campus. The ceremony is open to the public at no charge, and no reservations are needed. For more, visit https://www.hawaii.edu/about/awards

    Submitted by Kymber-Lee S Char, Public Information Officer, External Affairs and University Relations at UH