Eight of Perth’s culinary elite are ready to combat the skills shortage affecting their industry by signing up to the Taste program, initiated by Must Wine Bar executive chef Russell Blaikie and to be run in conjunction with the School Apprenticeship Link
Eight of Perth’s culinary elite are ready to combat the skills shortage affecting their industry by signing up to the Taste program, initiated by Must Wine Bar executive chef Russell Blaikie and to be run in conjunction with the School Apprenticeship Link program.
Taste aims to give a positive flavour of the food trades for year 10 and 11 students, and follows reforms to apprenticeships in Western Australia announced recently by Training Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich.
Mr Blaikie said the decision to reduce apprenticeships from four years to three was a positive for the industry and the most radical change in the history of the state’s hospitality trade.
“We feel that we can train them [the apprentices] on a competent level within three years,” Mr Blaikie told WA Business News.
Unique in Australia, the Taste program was inspired by a similar strategy led by the prestigious chef, Charlie Trotter, in Chicago.
Funded by the Department of Education and Training, Taste will form part of the SAL program, which introduces year 11 and 12 students to trades and apprenticeship opportunities.
Taste will offer year 12 students experience in the baking, cooking and pastry aspects of the food industry.
This year’s Taste pilot program is hoping to attract 150 students, with a target of 400 next year.
According to Mr Blaikie, the SAL program has suffered from a lack of marketing in a competitive trade environment.
“The SAL is such a good program and we weren’t telling people about it,” Mr Blaikie said.
“Taste tells kids about our industry, it’s a taste of what can be produced, the experience that you create for a customer. It also gives an opportunity to speak first hand to the leading chefs of the industry.”
A former WA Business News 40under40 winner, Mr Blaikie said that, like many trades, his industry suffered from a perception problem.
“The misperception of the trade is in part driven by the school, in the sense that there is a negative impression of a trade because students believe they are all entitled to a university education,” he said.
“There’s a belief that it [university] should be a student’s number one aspiration when leaving school.
“If you compare the income of a top-shelf chef…I can tell you right now that compares with a high-level professional in many industries, especially if you get to the level where you own your business.”
Joining Mr Blaikie in the Taste program are: Lamont’s proprietor and executive chef Kate Lamont; Fraser’s proprietor and executive chef Chris Taylor; Jackson’s proprietor and executive chef Neil Jackson; New Norcia Bakeries proprietor Kingley Sullivan; Vineleaves consultancy proprietor Peter Manifis; Burswood Entertainment Complex executive chef Erwin Schick; and Sheraton Hotel executive chef Andrew Thomas.
“We had a 100 per cent hit rate with the top chefs in town; everyone said ‘I’m in’,” Mr Blaikie said.
Special dining events will be held in the participating chefs’ establishments through Sep-tember and October, enabling potential participants to enjoy top quality produce, meet the chefs and see first-hand how successful kitchens operate.
“I want to highlight the food that I’m proud of, and that’s regional products and seasonality,” Mr Blaikie said.
“Without being intimidating but with an edge, everyone wants to give them a meal to remember for the rest of their career.”