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James Aptakin

Turtle Bay Resort - Kahuku, HI


Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Chef James Aptakin was influenced by his mother and the city’s South American flavors. His formal cooking education began on the USS Abraham Lincoln where he learned to cook for 6,000 aircraft carrier crewmembers. He received his degree from the California Culinary Academy, then continued his education at the Culinary Institute of America. Additionally, he earned a business degree in sales/marketing and advertising from Heald College. These accomplishments made it possible for James to become successful with his catering company, Layers of Flavor.

In 2011 he moved to Hawaii, where he incorporated his South American exotic flavors and California flair with local farm-to-table and Pan-Asian-Hawaiian fusion. Recognized for his commitment to local products, James won the Hawaii Food Manufacturer’s Association Battle of the Chefs twice and won the most write-in votes for Hale ‘Aina Awards’ Best Gourmet Comfort Food in Hawaii.

A small glimpse of his honors range from 1st Place as a local Iron Chef for the California Tomato Festival, 1st Place in the Food Network’s 2008 Big Bash Caterers competition, and 1st Place in the People’s Choice Mangos Award at the Moana Surfriders’ 7th Annual Hawaii Top Chef Competition, two-time 1st Place winner of the Seafood Competition and 1st Runner-up Reserve Champion in the 2016 World Food Championships.

Chef James has a strong passion for philanthropy through food events supporting various charities. He serves on the board for the Hawai‘i Restaurant Association and is the featured chef for Family Programs Hawaii’s Feast in the Field for Children in Foster Care and for Goodwill Goes Glam. He was chosen to be part of the 4th Annual Taste of Hawaii on Capitol Hill showcasing Hawaiian products.

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