Maui Food and Dining

Executive sous chef on Maui competes in Chopped on Food Network

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Chef McKenna Shea Round 1 Action, as seen on Chopped, Season 54. PC: Courtesy Food Network

Maui’s own McKenna Shea, executive sous chef of Pacific’o on the Beach, is competing for a chance to become a Chopped champion on the Food Network.

She competes in an upcoming episode scheduled to air on Tuesday, March 14, entitled A Bunch of Abalone!

Each episode of the long-running, television cooking competition features four chefs with distinct personalities. The chefs are tasked with turning baskets of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal, with a chef being eliminated from each round. By the end of the episode, there is just one winner.

Pacific’o on the Beach Executive Sous Chef McKenna Shea. Photo courtesy of Spencer Starnes.

“The winner of the Chopped receives $10,000, which is not too shabby if you ask me,” Chef Shea told Maui Now in a phone interview. “If I were to win, I would probably use that money toward a boat. My boyfriend and I are boat people and would like to start a catering business on a boat where he’s the captain. He’s currently a captain now, so that’s kind of our dream.”


In 2019, Shea joined Pacific’o on the Beach as their youngest leading female chef and soon became Sous Chef in 2020, working under the mentorship of Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco.

Now as Executive Sous Chef she oversees the kitchen where she ensures consistency and helps to create the menu with Bancaco, co-creating dishes with locally-sourced ingredients for an evolving and innovative menu.

“I started in the pastry world. I have a sweet tooth and love desserts, cookies, cakes and pies. That’s what I make at my house for myself, but at the restaurant, I enjoy cooking pasta dishes and Italian food, and things that excite the palate–sweet and spicy or savory and fruity. I like combing the pastry and the savory world,” said Chef Shea.

Shea also specializes in incorporating sustainable practices, supporting local farms and using every ingredient to its full potential, prominently putting Pacific’o on the map for farm-to-table dining experiences. 


“We’re a farm-to-table spot where I get to be creative and create specials every day. Being a sous chef is as close to being an executive chef as you can possibly be. So I’m definitely living my dream life, I would say, and Chopped came at the perfect time,” said Chef Shea.

Chef McKenna Shea, as seen on Chopped, Season 54. PC: Courtesy Food Network

Prior to her work at Pacific’o on the Beach, Chef Shea was employed at Merriman’s Kapalua. She moved to Maui four years ago after securing a job there. “I was also selected with Ritz Carlton / Marriott, so I was looking at Ritz Carlton properties to go to, and there was one on Maui. It all kind of landed in our lap,” she said.

Chef Shea, who was born in Dallas, TX, describes herself as a southern girl who always dreamed of being a chef. “I just always knew, so I promptly went to culinary school and got a culinary degree at Johnson & Wales University in Denver. I’ve always been on this track for chefdom, I would say. I’ve always had my mind made up that I wanted to be a chef one day,” she said.

The Season 54, Episode 11: A Bunch of Abalone! airs at 5 p.m. on Spectrum and 9 p.m. on DirecTV  Hawaiʻi time on March 14. Network representatives say the timings depend on the provider.


According to a show description, the competing chefs are “not too thrilled when they see a creature nobody has worked with before, and a fryer battle ensues.” In their entree basket, the chefs work with steak, but have to “ace the doneness under pressure.” “Finally, a condiment made with worms is a squirmy surprise in the dessert basket,” according to the show announcement.

This is not Chef Shea’s first time on national TV. She was also on Food Network back in 2019 as a competitor in a Cake Challenge episode.

“I built a 4-foot-tall cake with a mechanical component to it. It’s definitely not like anything I do now, but it shows my pastry roots and where I started–building these crazy dessert creations. That really went along with my Ritz Carlton journey where we would do giant gingerbread houses and giant chocolate sculptures. That was really where I started in the industry. Now I’m on the restaurant end of things,” said Chef Shea.

Having already been on the network before, they contacted Shea for inclusion on Chopped.

“I’m excited to be able to share my story on this platform. I feel like I finally am becoming as successful as I knew that I could be,” said Chef Shea.

More about Chef Shea’s journey.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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