04/07/2006 - 22:00

Apprentice can handle kitchen heat

04/07/2006 - 22:00

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The Perth Convention Exhibition Centre is cooking up a storm on both sides of the plate with its kitchen dominating the annual Apprentice Chef of the Year competition, held last week.

Apprentice can handle kitchen heat

The Perth Convention Exhibition Centre is cooking up a storm on both sides of the plate with its kitchen dominating the annual Apprentice Chef of the Year competition, held last week.

The annual competition is highly regarded within the hospitality profession, and is seen as a key indicator of talented chefs of the future.

This year, Kate Swift won a silver medal for ‘second-year apprentice chef of the year’, while Lauren Fabiankovits won silver for ‘fourth-year apprentice chef of the year’.

But third-year apprentice Jessica Donald created history as the first-ever chef to take out the top honour of ‘overall apprentice chef of the year’ for two years running, backing up her achievements with the gold medal for ‘third year apprentice chef of the year’.

Ms Donald’s overall win is WA’s most prestigious accolade for emerging chefs, judged against stringent criteria measured across all four years of apprenticeship training.

“The competition this year was very interesting,” Ms Donald says.

For this year’s competition all apprentices were allowed to create their own desserts but were given a ‘black box’ entrée and main course to prepare; that is, no prior warning as to what could be expected during the competition.

Ms Donald says this style of competition forced her to think differently about her preparation, and that the changes to the guidelines were beneficial.

“We all had to contend with a different style of competition this year but this kind of experience stretches you professionally and teaches you what your strengths and weaknesses are,” she says.

Both Ms Donald and Ms Fabiankovits have worked at the PCEC since its opening in August 2004, while Ms Swift has spent the past year there under the direction of executive chef, Adrian Tobin.

With this recent success of three of his young apprentices, Mr Tobin’s kitchen, already one of the largest and busiest in the country, is now also one of the most successful.

And the training of apprentices, not only in the preparation for industry recognised competitions such as this, is an integral part of a well functioning kitchen, Mr Tobin says.

“It is extremely hard to find good chefs at the moment,” Mr Tobin told Gusto. “It is important that we develop the talents of our own apprentices.

“Competitions like this show very quickly the people who have the guts to stand up and have a go. All three of these girls have bright futures ahead of them.”

And in a sign of complete faith in his apprentices, Mr Tobin has revealed plans to work all three of his apprentices’ award-winning desserts into his future menus.

“The possibility of our desserts on the menu is great,” Ms Donald says. “It is one thing to win a medal but to see your work implemented practically – it is so much more satisfying.”

After success locally, Ms Donald’s next challenge is representing the state in a team competing at Australia’s premier cooking competition, the Melbourne Culinary Challenge – formerly the Salon Culinaire. The event will be held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre from September 11 to 14.

Mr Tobin is also in training for his own competition, if not on a slightly more global scale. Recently appointed team captain of the National Culinary Olympic Team, a world cup for chefs so to speak, Mr Tobin will lead Australia against more than 1,000 chefs from 33 countries at the International Culinary Olympics.

The event is regarded as the most prestigious culinary competition in the world, with Germany to host the next Culinary Olympics in 2008.

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