Gerard McDyer is one lucky guy. An apprentice chef at Me and Mrs Jones in Canberra, he’ll soon be off on what promises to be an amazing culinary tour of Singapore. Among his prize package is the opportunity to work at the three Michelin star Guy Savoy restaurant, along with flights, cash and other goodies.
Making dreams come true
Gerard is the winner of a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Hall, whose generosity is also helping two other apprentices from the forchefs training program to follow their dreams.
Forchefs is a wonderful program that started in Canberra and has recently spread to Brisbane. It embraces a paddock to plate philosophy and is designed to build skills by exposing chefs to all sorts of fantastic opportunities and educational experiences.
It was started as a goodwill venture by four enthusiastic and dedicated Canberra chefs, and was eventually taken over by Regional Group Training, under whose tutelage it has grown from mentoring eight apprentice chefs to now having about 60 in Canberra on its books. The program was rolled out in Brisbane in July and there are exciting plans for it to go national.
The Rotary Club of Hall operates the Capital Region Farmers Market and has had a long association with forchefs since the program’s paddock-to-plate philosophy is such a great fit for the market.
Improving chefs’ skills
Apprentices have been able to build their skills by presenting cooking demonstrations for the public, meeting local growers and producers, and being immersed in the market’s community.
Rotary sponsors three scholarships to recognise the efforts of the apprentices in the forchefs program. There were eight finalists this year and they were judged on skill development, teamwork and participation, meeting learning outcomes and showing resilience in the kitchen and their profession.
The winners were announced last month at a presentation dinner at The Abbey Function Centre at Federation Square (yummy Vanilla bean panna cotta served at the dinner, pictured at right).
I had the pleasure of sitting at the Regional Group Training table and it was heartening to hear from RGT staff about their passion for hospitality and their efforts to raise training standards.
As the ACT Tourism Minister, Andrew Barr, pointed out in his presentation address, there are 16,000 hospitality jobs in Canberra and the industry is critical to the city.
The Rotary Club scholarships are a fantastic initiative. As well as lucky Gerard McDyer winging his way to Singapore, Sharon Barnes from The Artisan will head to Perth to work at the three-hatted Clarke’s at North Beach in Perth while Keith Small from The Lobby will go to Tasmania to work at the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart.
Passion for cooking
I first met Sharon more than 25 years ago and hadn’t seen her since. I was impressed to hear her story – she is one gutsy lady. Sharon came to her apprenticeship late in life after deciding that her desire to cook was more than just a weekend moment.
She still has a full-time job in a completely different field and works part-time at The Artisan to complete her apprenticeship. Not quite sure how you do it, Sharon. Sounds like the trip to Perth is well deserved.
Other finalists for the awards included Cassie Barton from T on the Square, Rose Mogford from Pistachio Dining, Michelle O’Donnell from Eighty Six, Mathias Rauber from Calvary Retirement Village, and Rhiannon Burnett from The Abbey.
If you get a chance, pop along to the Capital Region Farmers Market to see the forchefs at work. They do cooking demos on the first Saturday of each month, and their recipes are online at www.capitalregionfarmersmarket.com.au