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Jazel's brave new world

After starting her hospitality career in the Philippines, Jazel was nervous but excited to take her cookery skills to the next level in Australia.

For newly graduated chef, Jazel Yanson, stepping into her cookery career wasn’t as nerve-wracking as she thought it might be – after all, she’s been practising being brave ever since moving from the Philippines to Australia to study a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery / Diploma of Hospitality Management at TAFE Queensland three years ago.

“In the Philippines, I had a bachelor's degree in hospitality management. I had experience in many different parts of the industry, from the front office to food and beverage. I even had the opportunity to do an internship in America.”

“I was looking to challenge myself and I thought, ‘why not give it a go in the most challenging role?’ Which for me, was cookery.”

Working with her agent helped Jazel to narrow her choices down and choose the best pathway.

“My agent told me about a lot of schools. But he also told me that if I'm going to pursue cookery, TAFE Queensland is the best option.”

“He told me that if you wanted to be the best, you have to be in the best school. I've always valued my education, so I said, ok, let's go to TAFE.”

“Now I’ve graduated, I still agree it was the best choice. In the hospitality industry, especially when it comes to cooking, you need the kind of hands on, practical experience that TAFE offers because it prepares you for work.”

Back in the Philippines, Jazel had an interest in baking, running her own small cake business. She says she felt confident in her baking skills but nervous about the pressure of working at the stove.

“I actually wanted to be a pastry chef. I never saw myself as a chef, in fact I have always been scared of the grill!” she laughs.

However, Jazel isn’t the type to shy away from a challenge. Proving to herself she could reach her goals was both important to her, and at times, surprising.

“You have this restaurant phase in the course. It’s an opportunity to put our theory to the test in a real kitchen. It was scary, and I remember thinking, ‘we really have to cook for people!’ I was so nervous.”

“We rotated throughout the kitchen,” she continues, “each doing entrées, mains and dessert. Every time I'm in the mains section, I tend to panic even just during prep time, wondering, ‘am I doing this right?!’”

What always helped her through these moments, Jazel smiles, is knowing her teachers believed she could do it.

“Chef Cian told me about some tips on how to get things done and then as I was doing it! I got more confident as I got to work.”

“Both my teachers, Chef Cian and Chef Andrew, were always so patient while also helping us gain an experience of what it’s really like to work in a restaurant.”

“I was really proud of myself, and that’s helped me as I’ve started working in professional kitchens. It’s helped me believe I can achieve anything I put my mind to.” Jazel smiles wide.

It’s this lesson, about facing your fears and doing it anyway, Jazel says, is her biggest piece of advice for international students.

“When you move countries, you’re making the decision to rebuild your life from scratch. There's always risk when you’re trying to catch the dream or happiness you want.”

“And so,” Jazel continues, “I’ve found it’s important to remind yourself that I’m climbing a mountain. You must take one step at a time, and you have to do it yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. And you might trip or fall but to fail is a part of life.”

“You’ll always have doubts," Jazel grins.

“Even now I still sometimes wonder if I’m doing the right thing. But I remind myself in the moments when it feels too hard that I’m doing this for my future.”

“If you can have faith in yourself and overcome the worries and fears of a new challenge, there’s not stopping you.”

Jazel has achieved her goal of finding independence and confidence in moving to Australia.

“Even though I originally wanted to be a Pastry Chef, right now I'm actually quite enjoying being a chef and it's quite challenging. I think you can tell I like a challenge.”

With the training and confidence she gained during her course, Jazel has started her career as a Chef working for two renowned hoteliers.

“I graduated in October 2021 and began working as a casual breakfast chef at Novotel.”

“When I look back on my time there I can see how far I’ve come. I have a message from my chef at Novotel, Chef Devranjan, saying he’s really proud of me because he remembers the first time I went there, I was even afraid to do frying!”

“Like my teachers, Chef Dev always encouraged me to face my fears. When you prove to yourself you can do something, it makes you eager to learn more and keep pushing yourself.”

After looking for full time work, Jazel landed a dream role working as a chef for the Star Company at Treasury Casino.

“It was huge to hear I’d gotten the job! And now, as they help me continue to build on the skills I learned at TAFE, my sous chefs are training me to not only be a better chef, but giving my opportunities to grow outside of the kitchen, working with my hotel management skills.

“I’m so happy to work toward building up my career.”

Indeed, for Jazel, moving to Australia and challenging herself has certainly paid off.