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Amber wins TAFE Queensland apprentice chef of the year award

Twenty-one-year-old Amber Heaton has been crowned TAFE Queensland’s Apprentice Chef of the Year for 2021.

To win the award she had to create a gourmet dish from a mystery box of ingredients in competition with eight other finalists.

Amber’s scallops and salsa verde with pickled fennel entrée, twice-cooked pork, mashed potatoes and broccoli main, and chocolate panna cotta with strawberry and pineapple compote dessert proved most popular amongst the judges.

In her third year of completing a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery (SIT30816), Amber was awarded the gourmet gong at a recent awards dinner held at 66 on Ernest Restaurant at TAFE Queensland’s South Bank campus.

“Knowing that I beat the best-of-the-best in a high-pressure competition was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking,” said Amber.

“As chefs, we work in demanding situations every service, but the mystery box experience took it to a whole new level and to win up against my classmates is fantastic.”.

As a chef at Italian restaurant Cucina Vivo, at The Star Gold Coast, Amber said she is thrilled that TAFE Queensland has helped her turn her natural curiosity for food into a career.

Born into an Italian family she grew up helping create family meals which developed her passion for food that she now imparts into her cooking.

“I’ve always been fascinated with creating cuisine and having worked in kitchens since Year Ten, I’m constantly honing my craft,” continued Amber.

“As a chef at The Star, I’m cooking alongside other renowned chefs, and I’m learning different ways of doing things, which keeps me motivated and inspired.”

While studying with TAFE Queensland, Amber took advantage of ‘Free TAFE for under 25s’ funding which saw her train at a lower cost, something that’s enabling her to build her life outside the kitchen.

“I’m saving the money I would have spent on my course for a house deposit and one day I hope to open my own cooking school. I also plan to travel to Europe and experience its diverse culinary offerings,” she said.

TAFE Queensland Director of Faculty of Tourism, Hospitality and Personal Services, Pat Dennis, said that all of the finalists in this year’s Apprentice Chef of the Year awards should be proud of their achievements.

“Out of the hundreds of apprentice chefs we’re currently training, only eight were selected as finalists to compete for this year’s title,” Mr Dennis said.

“They’re all exceptional, and becoming finalists is a credit to their efforts over the years, their teachers and their families – who should all be very proud of what these remarkable young people have achieved.”

Despite attending dozens of cooking awards, Mr Dennis continues to be impressed by the quality of the apprentices coming through the faculty.

“Our apprentice chefs are a diverse bunch of people, but the standard and quality of their work is very high right across the board,” he said.

“We are so proud to be able to provide the industry with such high calibre professionals every year – and with international and state borders opening up, the industry needs our talented graduates more than ever.”

“They will play an essential role in the industry’s recovery, as they leave us with the skills employers need now and in the future, to help businesses all over our state to recover in the years to come,” concluded Mr Dennis.