By Kayla Valera| Staff Writer
For the past ten months, John Richards– head of the department of Business, Legal and Technology at KCC– has been actualizing his vision and current labor of love: Coolin’aire. It is a musical that merges Richards’ two favorite arts, culinary and music, and it is a networking vehicle that collaborates nearly all of O’ahu’s community colleges.
Although Richards had only begun this colossal project around the time he first came to O’ahu in August 2016, Coolin’aire has always been an idea of his since his previous career as a faculty member of the Miami Culinary Institute at Miami Dade College. There, Richards had built the idea in his head about a platform that brings together all of his life’s work.
Richards has always had a passion for food and the culinary arts, as is evident in his experiences with starting up institutes that specialize in this field. Even further back in 1994, Richards opened a restaurant called Zephyr Cove, located in Nevada, and acted as an executive chef there. Though what might be surprising to most is that Richards also harbors a great love and appreciation of music and performing.
Richards has had a number of jobs early on in his career where he lent his bass-playing skills at music gigs that performed jazz music in particular. He had even performed at times with the musicians in his own restaurant whenever he had the chance. However he could, Richards would always try to incorporate his two passions into any career he carried out.
So when the trade winds blew and an opportunity found itself in Hawai’i, Richards decided to make his dream of Coolin’aire into a reality. It all began in a meeting with the Interim Chancellor of KCC, Louise Pagotto. Pagotto was the first person that Richards had decided to confide in about his project and subsequently gained her support.
He made it clear to Pagotto that the intention of this project was to somehow bridge together students from different community colleges that study a variety of different majors. The production will comb through Windward Community College for their Palikū performing arts team and HARRIET culinary training program, Honolulu Community College for their MELE music program, as well as KCC’s own hospitality students and culinary students, who will actively cook simple dishes throughout the show. In addition to this, KCC’s administrative support will aid in the production as well.
The two main leads of the show will feature seasoned performers that will ultimately illustrate the love story in Coolin’aire between a chef and his apprentice. The chef role will be helmed by “Little Albert” Maligmat, who is an entertainer and is known for being a member of the local group, Society of Seven. Joined with Maligmat, Anna Marie Love will be play the apprentice and has had experience as a professionally trained singer who has a background with in operatic singing. The musical will play off of their competitive dynamic added with a secret theme of chocolate.
If there was one person that Richards would dedicate Coolin’aire to, it would have to be his mother, stated Richard.“She was not a good cook,” Richards laughs, “…she is no longer with us but she was an inspirer. She’d always say to just ‘go for it.’”
Coolin’aire is set to open to the public on Saturday, June 10 at the Palikū Theater near WCC. The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be bought online. For more information and details about the production, visit Coolin’aire’s official website.