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Chef’s secret ingredient: TAFE NSW Tasting Success program

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Lara Hagan is quickly learning what ingredients are needed for a successful career in cooking. 

The budding young chef has been taking her cues from some of the best in the country after being handpicked to take part in the TAFE NSW Tasting Success program. 

Lara is one of 16 female chefs across the state currently participating in the initiative.

But, she’s the first from TAFE NSW Hamilton. 

As part of the program, up-and-coming chefs in regional NSW are being propelled into leadership roles thanks to the expansion of a unique mentoring initiative that pairs students with industry leaders.  

On Tuesday 5 March Tasting Success mentees celebrated their completion of the program with their mentors at a graduation ceremony held in Sydney. 

NSW employs more chefs than any other state or territory with nearly a third of the nation’s chefs working in the state, however national data indicates that just 1 in 4 chefs are women and even fewer make it to top positions.  

Now in its 16th year, this is the first time the mentoring program has expanded to the regions. 

It has that while completing a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery, Lara has received personalised mentorship from Troy Rhoades-Brown, chef and owner of Muse Restaurant in Pokolbin.  

“Participating in the TAFE NSW Tasting Success program provided me with an invaluable opportunity to deepen my understanding of food provenance, particularly in relation to First Nations peoples’ food knowledge and sustainable practices with native Australian produce,” she said. 

“The connections forged with like-minded individuals in the industry, especially women sharing my passion, enriched my learning experience and opened doors to future career opportunities.”  

TV Chef Lyndey Milan OAM is the co-founder and patron of the program, which she says bridges the gap between the industry’s need for highly skilled and confident workers and TAFE NSW’s unique position as a leading training provider.  

“Tasting Success is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that pairs aspiring female chefs with leading chefs and gives them the self-confidence, self-awareness, and skills they need to be leaders in the industry,” she explained.  

“Our industry mentors are carefully chosen to show the next generation of female chefs what’s possible and expose them to best industry practice and produce they might not otherwise see.  

“In addition to the mentoring component, students have attended a number of specialised workshops to build their skills like leadership and resilience in the kitchen, social media marketing, food styling, food and wine matching, business principles for chefs and personal presentation and media training.  

“They also had the opportunity to extend existing skills through masterclasses with industry leaders such as celebrated chef, Josh Niland from Fish Butchery, who is part of our TAFE NSW Alumni. It’s very comprehensive and has proven to create well-rounded, capable chefs.” 

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