Hospitality is a big part of the industry here. We've got a really thriving tourism and hospitality industry. And that was a reason for us to look at how can we introduce young people to this, and how can we link that to what our local venues and chefs are doing.
Every student who is in VET commercial cookery has the opportunity to do the Murray River Culinary Challenge. So, the menus are embedded into the curriculum. The trainers use the menus in a normal school format. So, in a normal cooking class that they would do. Each student at that level cooks off individually. So, each student presents their skill based menu for the judges on that day. Students will then be chosen as the high scorers within that school. So, that school pair joins up and there is a team from the school that then goes onto a regional challenge. The regional challenge involves all schools in that region and a pair from each of those schools. So, they become the regional teams, and they then cook off together. And the winner of that particular region will then go on to join the four teams from the other regions and become the team's player for the grand final.
*Speaker 3 – Rick Smollenaars, Industry Trainer, Bendigo TAFE. Includes vision of judging*
When the students compete at the Murray River Challenge, over the different levels, basically as they step up to regional then to the grand final, those levels replicate industry cooking. Where they're actually serving meals to the customers, so when they're putting a plate out for the judges today during the competition, it pretty much is like when they're actually putting meals out for a customer. They have to be spot on because we're going to be critiqued.
*Speaker 4 – Chris Eeles, Principal Echuca College. Includes kitchen scenes*
The destination outcomes for our students are pretty strong through the Vocational Education and Training program in schools, particularly the culinary challenge students in the Hospitality area. What the students experience here, they can actually see down the street. Many of the facilitators of the programs actually work in the local community - they know the kids. And at every opportunity in the schools to participate in the program here, they can see their trade, and they know the people and can get their part time jobs there and hopefully their careers. So, they're living and breathing the VET subjects that they're doing here at school.
I feel like I get a lot of basic knowledge skills so when I do go into TAFE when I’ve graduated, it's really going to help me set up and everything. So, I'll have my basic knowledge and then I'll be able to improve from there.
Doing this course and the competition will give me the skills that I need to maybe progress into becoming a chef and give me an idea of what I'm going to be doing in the cheffing industry if I decide to follow through with it.
Well this whole experience has helped me clarify what areas I want to go into when I leave. So, I was never considering patisserie until last year, when I started to do it and then because of that, I've now been more invested in learning about patisserie.
Because the challenge introduces them to chefs it gives them a foot in the door for structured work placement and most of them are taking that up and make good use of it. But locally we've got quite a lot of the apprentice chefs going into our local venues, who have come through this challenge and gained that experience and got that foot the door by meeting the chefs.
*Speaker 6 – George Santos, General Manager Marketing Moama Bowling club*
In a business like ours we're always relying on having local talent and if you can retain the talent in the area all the better for us. The kids know, a lot of the time, where the ingredients come from, especially if it’s locally produced and it's good to get the knowledge that comes from knowing your product and using it locally. It becomes a very special thing, that knowledge that's derived from the experience.
…the winner is Rochester! (applause)
We have a real sense that the Murray River Culinary Challenge is a showcase event. Because it showcases the relationships with industry, and it showcases how you can have that relationship extend right down to interact with the students and build those relationships for them with people who work in the industry. To see the diversity of careers that are out there and the wealth of opportunities that are there for young people.