Retired Big Island dentist explores new passion in culinary arts at Hawai‘i Community College

Listen to this Article
2 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

A painful, disabling condition caused Hawaiʻi Island dentist Alan Fujimoto to retire several years ago, after decades of practice.

Alan Fujimoto (right) at Hawaiʻi CC

Dentistry’s loss was Hawaiʻi Community College’s gain as the 68-year-old is now a second-year culinary arts student.

Fujimoto loved cooking since he was a child. He had inquired about the college’s culinary program while he was still practicing dentistry but was told it was a full-time commitment. So, when he was sidelined and his physical therapist told him he needed movement and exercise, the timing was right to jump from the proverbial firepan into the fire—where 11-hour days are not unheard of.

“I’m looking for a vocational skill and to tell the truth, it’s pretty rigorous. It is time-consuming,” Fujimoto said. “If you don’t put in the time, you are not gonna get anything out of it.”


Yet, his Hawaiʻi CC experiences stand in stark contrast to the sometimes harsh eight years of formal higher education he needed to become a dentist when he remembers getting yelled at—a lot.

“I went to school for a very long time and I went through a lot of different professors, different educational systems,” said Fujimoto. “Hawaiʻi CC is the only one—I can say this really, very sincerely—they’re the most supportive faculty that I’ve ever met in my life.”

Alan Fujimoto was a dentist for decades. Courtesy: Alan Fujimoto

Chef Instructor Philton Velasco called Fujimoto a “special guy” who is willing to share his knowledge, life experiences and more with his classmates, most of whom are decades younger. Fujimoto brought his pasta maker to use for the Italian cooking sessions and his chocolate fountain to celebrate a classmate who was getting married.


“He’s awesome,” said Velasco. “He’s got a great understanding of food.”

Chancellor Susan Kazama said she knows of just one or two other people who have transitioned to something totally different after full professional careers.

“He’s an excellent dentist, and then he moved into something else, where he can unleash his creativity,” Kazama said. “You can start from a professional career and then reinvent yourself into what you truly want, and that’s what I see him doing because I can see the love that he has for how he creates and cooks.”


This is not Fujimoto’s last reinvention. He has his sights set on becoming a master sommelier following graduation from Hawaiʻi CC in May.

“One thing I truly do want to do more than furthering my education and pursuing my other hobbies after finishing the culinary program would be to be a better husband and supporter for my wife Phyllis to whom I’ve been married for over 40 years,” Fujimoto said. “These last two years at HCC were very demanding and time-consuming and I couldn’t have done it without her continued support and understanding. I’m really looking forward to staying at home more, cooking for her and catering to her flavor profiles more than anything else.”

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments