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A foodie’s love of nature and pursuit of excellence

By Sammy Curgenven

From Africa with love...With nothing more than a love of all things culinary, a dream to pursue, and a sense of adventure, I swapped one wild continent for another to discover some Aussie inspo and true blue delights.

Born in Port Shepstone, South Africa, I was raised in Marloth Park, a unique enclave nestled in the African bush bordering the Kruger National Park.

Surrounded by free roaming wildlife, my childhood was filled with the sights and sounds of nature.

It was a place where I developed a deep connection with nature and learned valuable life lessons about survival and resilience.

As a teenager, I relocated to the South Coast of South Africa, where I discovered a new passion for the ocean.

The thrill of spending time in the ocean surfing captivated me but that time also came with challenges.

To support my education and pursue my dreams, I had to take matters into my own hands.

I paid for my high school studies and correspondence courses while working at a wakeboarding lodge.

Living in a dorm on-site, I faced the struggles of independence as a teenager, separated from family life. s

My mother, a single parent, raised me in the bush, and financial constraints meant I had to fend for myself since the age of 15.

This early independence instilled in me a sense of responsibility and determination that would shape my future.

My career initially began in print advertising, but it was my work in marketing and photography at safari lodges in South Africa that ignited my passion for the hospitality industry.

Through my own travel marketing business, I gained invaluable experience working at various lodges and eventually joined a prestigious safari company, which allowed me to explore some of Southern Africa's finest lodges.

Despite my enthusiasm for hospitality and cooking, I couldn't pursue formal education at that time. However, I continued to work hard, laying the foundation for my future.

In 2023, the time was right; inspired to follow my lifelong passion for cooking, I decided to embark on a new journey.

Since moving to Melbourne, I have met some wonderful people who have ‘adopted’ me in their family, and are currently helping me through this journey.

Their support has been beyond what I thought I would ever receive and knew about unconditional care and love – a valuable lesson in one’s life.

My dream is to create multifaceted establishments encompassing an explorations café, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a beach lodge; a concept born from my profound love for travel, food, coffee, and photography.

This vision is a dynamic space where the menu evolves with the seasons, sourced from local farmers and suppliers to promote sustainability.

The café would also double as an art gallery, showcasing travellers’ photography, and offering customers a visual connection to the diverse flavours on their plates.

The beach lodge experience would draw from my own travels in Mozambique.

My academic journey, from completing high school to earning certificates in graphic design and photography, culminated in an Advanced Diploma in Marketing Communication.

With over 12 years of experience in the travel and hospitality industries, I hope to bring a fresh perspective to commercial cookery and hospitality management.

While working as a cook at Good2Eat Catering on the Sunshine Coast, I've taken the next step in my culinary journey.

I’m often asked why I chose Australia to pursue this dream and why TAFE Queensland?

Australia had already captured my heart during my time living and working in Melbourne.

The vibrant culture, bustling streets, and diverse culinary scene made it an irresistible destination.

But my true calling lay on the Sunshine Coast; beyond the kitchen, I embrace the region's natural beauty, from its pristine beaches for swimming and surfing to the captivating hiking trails in the surrounding wilderness.

TAFE Queensland’s Mooloolaba campus has become the perfect platform for my culinary aspirations as I train for the SIT40521 Certificate IV in Kitchen Management qualification.

Located at the heart of the Sunshine Coast, it offers convenience and a strong reputation for practical training and industry relevance.

TAFE Queensland’s dedicated teaching staff and industry connections promise a holistic education that empowers me to excel in the culinary world.

I have also made wonderful friends along the way, and the connections built at TAFE Queensland are ones that I will treasure forever.

My journey from South Africa to TAFE Queensland embodies resilience, passion, and an unwavering commitment to pursuing my dreams.

It's a story of overcoming challenges, combining diverse experiences, and finding a new purpose in the world of hospitality and cooking.

I'm excited to embrace the opportunities that lay ahead and ready to make my mark in the culinary world.