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Hawaiʻi Island siblings compete against 12 other teams in 'Top Chef Family Style'

"Top Chef Family Style" contestants Ocean Kanekoa and Jaydene Kanekoa
Smallz & Raskind
"Top Chef Family Style" contestants Ocean Kanekoa and Jaydene Kanekoa

Have you heard about the new team cooking competition on NBCUniversal's Peacock featuring siblings from Hawaiʻi? Spoiler alert — as of Oct. 7, they're still in the competition!

"Top Chef Family Style," hosted by pop star Meghan Trainor and chef Marcus Samuelsson, features talented young chefs who team up with an adult family member.

Kamuela native Ocean Kanekoa, 15, said he wants to open a restaurant by the time he’s 18 — did you hear him in the show's trailer?

But before appearing on national television, Ocean was already making waves. In 2019, he was named Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s "Keiki in the Kitchen" champion and Hawaiʻi Island Aloha Festival poke champion.

He’s one of 13 young chefs competing on the Peacock show, teaming up with his sister Jaydene. The Kanekoas sat down with The Conversation to talk about the road to culinary stardom.

"It started from a young age. I've always been with my dad, he's always been an inspiration to me. And he always brought me into the kitchen — and not just the kitchen, but collecting our own food, foraging around Hawaiʻi, whether it be fishing or going to farms, just being around food in general," Ocean Kanekoa said. "More recently, in the past year, I really got into cooking throughout the pandemic and making recipes. So once I had the opportunity to go on "Top Chef Family Style," I knew it was something that I wanted to do to be able to push myself and then also just have a little more fun cooking."

Filming wrapped earlier this year and Ocean is back in school, hanging out with his friends, living a normal teen life — and still spending a lot of time cooking.

Older sister Jaydene Kanekoa claims she was probably her brother's last pick for the family member partner.

"Originally, he had wanted my dad to do the competition with him — but my dad being an executive chef, that was way too much experience. So he had to kind of go down his list of family members," Jaydene Kanekoa said. "After a few more options that couldn't do it, finally, I was the one who got put up on that list. Ocean was very skeptical in the beginning of having me as his partner for "Top Chef Family Style," but hopefully in the end, he sees that it really paid off to have this big sister."

Jaydene Kanekoa is back to work full-time and admits she cooks a lot more than she did before the show.

You can follow the Kanekoas as they compete for the $50,000 prize — episodes are released Thursdays on Peacock.

“Top Chef Family Style” is produced by Magical Elves with Casey Kriley, Jo Sharon, Hillary Olsen, Claire Kosloff and Tracy Tong serving as executive producers. This interview aired on The Conversation on Oct. 6, 2021.

Lillian Tsang is the senior producer of The Conversation. She has been part of the talk show team since it first aired in 2011. Contact her at ltsang@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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