Paul Breheny fell in love with cooking from a young age, making his first loaf of bread at just five-years-old. Raised in Derbyshire, England by his publican parents, he was no stranger to the kitchen when he was growing up – in fact by the time he was seven, Paul had graduated to helping his parents feed their hungry patrons by cooking cheese and onion pies.
Fast-forward to his teenage years, and there was no question when it came to what he wanted to do for a living. Attending a catering college in the United Kingdom, Paul spent two years studying everything from making beds to cooking for the masses. Hungry to learn more and broaden his skills, he spent his first four years working for a variety of different restaurants and establishments, before making the move to Cronulla with his Australian wife.
“I was the Executive Chef at the Sydney Morning Herald, where I used to cook for 2000 people, catering for the cafeteria and their private functions,” Paul said.
“I got to cook for some pretty important people as well, like high flying executives and senior politicians.”
During this time, Paul started a successful film catering business that prepared food for the cast and crew of shows like Home and Away and Australia Idol. He eventually sold this to open award-winning Sydney restaurant Fratelli Del Mare, which he co-owned and operated for 10 years. By this time, Paul had developed a passion for seafood and a knowledge of the entertainment industry, which he put into practice as the co-producer and presenter of TV show, The Hook and The Cook.
“It’s essentially a show where we catch fish and show viewers how to cook it, there and then on the rocks,” Paul said.
“It’s been pretty successful. When we were on TV we got to go to America with it, and now we’re on YouTube, we have 18,000 subscribers and some pretty big name fishing sponsors."
“I’ve also done work with the TV show Escape with ET as a result of its success.”
In addition to all this, Paul has worked as a commercial cookery trainer since 2007, joining the TAFE Queensland team at their Mooloolaba campus in 2016. Paul now spends his time passing on his extensive knowledge to the Sunshine Coast’s next generation of chefs, training both local and international students in the latest cooking techniques and providing them with invaluable skills that often see them land jobs working for some of the Coast’s – and the country’s – most prestigious restaurants.
“I find it’s a close knit community here; everybody here knows everyone’s name,” Paul said.
“It’s great to just see these kids improve and thrive – it’s really rewarding. I just love teaching and enjoy seeing people go from barely being able to use a knife to being a fully qualified chef."
“You’ll always have a job if you get into this career – you’ll never be out of work because there is work everywhere. And if you’re passionate about it, there are so many really good restaurants you can work for on the Coast,” he said.
Working as part of a team of highly experienced and skilled chefs to deliver hands-on industry-standard training, Paul and his fellow cookery trainers regularly consult with local businesses to ensure they have their finger of the pulse of the food industry.
Whether it’s offering a specialised focused on high demand cuisines or teaching students about costings, students and apprentices gain a fully-rounded knowledge that will see them enter the workplace as confident and capable employees. The Mooloolaba campus even has students operate a live restaurant, where they speak to customers and put everything they’ve learned into practice.
“When I explain to other chefs what we do here, they are often shocked – they can’t believe the modern techniques we are teaching the students and the equipment we have. We’re up there with what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne.”
“You have to be quick in the kitchen or you get left behind, so we put a lot of emphasis on making our students industry ready.”
With jobs in the accommodation and food services sector set to increase by 14.2 per cent by 2022 according to the Labour Market Information Portal, there has never been a better time to pursue a passion for food.