APPRENTICE chef Nele Sadler won the 2016 Brett Graham Scholarship at a gala industry event held in Newcastle on Tuesday night.
Stephane Pommier, of Muse Dining and Muse Kitchen, took out the First Creek Front of House Scholarship and the inaugural Rising Star Award was presented to Margan Restaurant’s Abbey Taylor.
All three winners had to endure a host of nerve-wracking challenges, assessments and interviews against strong competition.
Ms Sadler, who is honing her craft at Newcastle’s Subo, was up against Kana Seaton, from Emersons Cafe and Restaurant, and Jakeal Hector from Hobarts. Each finalist provided a three-course meal for the gathered guests at Hunter TAFE’s Hamilton campus as the final part of their assessment.
They had to design, prepare and cook a menu based on ingredients selected by Brett Graham, as well as direct and manage a kitchen “support team” of apprentices. The individual courses from each finalist were served to 60 industry members, as well as a panel of expert judges including Troy Rhoades-Brown, of Muse Dining in the Hunter Valley, Newcastle Herald writer Lisa Rockman and Hunter TAFE teacher Tracey Amos.
“While it is always an honour to be involved in the judging process, it never gets any easier,” Mr Rhoades-Brown said.
“The standard was as high and as creative as ever, with all three finalists showing an excellent understanding of subtle flavour combinations, seasonality and quality produce.
“We all agreed that Nele was deserving as the eventual winner, and as a previous recipient of the scholarship myself, I know just how positive an impact this win will have on her future career.”
Mr Rhoades-Brown’s Muse Dining was yesterday ranked number one in Australia and 15th in the world according to the 2016 Travellers’ Choice Best Fine Dining Restaurants list.
Ms Sadler will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly to London and work alongside Brett Graham at his two-Michelin-starred restaurant, The Ledbury, and learn the ropes in one of the world’s best kitchens. Several previous recipients have secured jobs and chosen to stay in the UK to further their experience. Alternatively, she can put the rest of her $10,000 winnings towards dining out and experiencing all that Europe has to offer, before returning home to commence a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at Hunter TAFE.
Established in 2003 as a partnership between Hunter TAFE and Hunter Culinary Association, the esteemed scholarship prize is named after one of the most successful Hunter TAFE Alumni, Brett Graham.
Mr Pommier, winner of the $6000 First Creek Front of House Scholarship Award, will be able to put his prize towards international travel to sample the world’s best restaurants before returning to the Hunter and starting a qualification thanks to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
Jane Hyland, a highly regarded front-of-house industry professional and owner of 4Fourteen in Surry Hills with her partner and head chef Colin Fassnidge, was thrilled to be involved in selecting and awarding this year’s First Creek scholarship winner.
“Excellent front-of-house staff should be rewarded and celebrated just as much as their kitchen-based counterparts as without them, Australia’s global reputation as a premier dining destination would not be possible,” she said.
Ms Taylor’s Rising Star Award acknowledged her hard work to date and encouraged her continued education with a fully-funded Diploma of Hospitality Management from Hunter TAFE.