Reports by the Australian Government’s Department of Jobs and Small Business show that Australia is set to experience a 16.7 per cent growth in the demand for chefs over the next five years – with a 9.7 per cent growth in the accommodation and food service industry estimated for the Sunshine Coast alone.
With so many job opportunities, there has never been a better time for foodies to turn their interest into a career in the culinary arts, and international students have been jumping at the chance to develop their skills and launch their careers in such an idyllic location.
TAFE Queensland graduate Federica Lunato’s decision to do just that has paid off more than even she anticipated, after she landed a role as commis chef at Spicers Clovelly’s prestigious hatted restaurant The Long Apron just six months into her 18-month qualification. The 32-year-old Italian graduated with a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery in December last year and said she is grateful for the opportunities her experience at TAFE Queensland has given her.
“I’m so happy with the decision I made to come here; it really has been a life-changing opportunity for me,” Federica said.
“I’m so grateful for the support my teachers gave me throughout my studies and the opportunities that have been presented to me thanks to their help. They taught me a lot of skills that I will carry with me throughout my career, and they really pushed us to achieve the best we could.”
Formally a graphic designer in Milan, Federica had always loved cooking as a hobby but had never seriously considered it as a career. But a growing desire for change saw Federica re-evaluate her options, and after receiving recommendations from friends who had studied in Australia, she made the decision to enrol to study commercial cookery with TAFE Queensland.
“There are so many opportunities for qualified chefs looking to get into the hospitality industry as adults here, whereas in Italy, if you don’t start early you get left behind,” Federica said.
“I really love the creativity of cooking. There’s no limit to what you can create, from different ingredients and textures to tastes. It was very easy for me to transfer that from my work in graphic design to my work as a chef."
“I also love that there is always room for improvement or something new to learn. It’s challenging, but I like a challenge.”
Federica caught the attention of the acclaimed chef behind The Long Apron, Chris Hagan, after he approached TAFE Queensland for a recommendation. Mooloolaba-based cookery teacher Darryl Rush said he and his team are regularly contacted by restaurants scouting talent and that it gives them great joy to see students like Federica excel.
“Our team are all qualified chefs with strong industry connections, and our commercial cookery programs have a reputation for providing students with the practical and diverse skills they need to make a great career for themselves wherever they go. We teach our students about a variety of cuisines, tastes and flavours, ensuring they have a broad range of knowledge and experience; that’s why when restaurants look to hire, they often come to us,” Darryl said.
“It can be hard to single out just one student, but if you are passionate about cooking, have a hunger to learn, can listen to instructions and you’re not afraid to push yourself, you can definitely go far in this industry.”
Federica isn’t the only one to be poached from Mooloolaba’s cookery program by a highly respected establishment, with several other students also getting head-hunted or landing coveted roles as a result of TAFE Queensland’s reputation for quality training.
Darryl said that in addition to The Long Apron, students have landed roles with fellow award-winning restaurants Localle, Wasabi, Rickys River Bar, Spirit House, Noosa Boathouse, and Spice Bar, while a large number of both cookery and hospitality students had found roles within the Sunshine Coast Hotel Group.
“It is incredibly rewarding to see the hard work our students put in allow them to be recognised,” said Darryl.
“It is a massive challenge for our international students in particular as they are away from their family and friends in a new country, so we are very proud of their accomplishments.”