TAFE trainees take celeb chef challenge

Peter Gilmore's signature dish, the snow egg, caused a couple of MasterChef finalists to crack - but Nowra TAFE students whipped up a new creation by the celebrity chef with aplomb yesterday.

The commercial cookery students worked alongside the executive chef of Sydney's Quay restaurant to come up with the "Andalucia Citrus and Almonds" dessert for the TAFE's 10th annual Celebrity Chef Scholarship Dinner.

Six other high-profile and hatted chefs including Peter Doyle, Alessandro Pavoni and Giovanni Pilu also worked with students to prepare a course for the gala dinner at the Nowra campus last night.

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"It's a great initiative of the TAFE to give these regional students some exposure to Sydney chefs and restaurants," Mr Gilmore said.

"As well as working with the students in preparation for, and at the event, the students also come up and work in Sydney restaurants to get some experience, and hopefully some inspiration.

"This is the first time I've been able to take part in the event and I wanted to do something that stretches the students a little, so I came up with a new dessert with about 10 different components that is just as complex as the snow egg."

The Nowra TAFE training kitchens resembled the scenes on some reality television shows yesterday, with a lot of slicing and dicing and, yes, swearing.

Students seemed a little starstruck by the high-profile chefs who volunteered their time for the TAFE event to give back to an industry they remain passionate about.

"It's great to be part of something that's so unique and worthwhile," said British chef Matthew Kemp, chef at Gazebo Wine Garden. "Even though television shows have glamorised the industry, it's still hard to attract young people.

"Events like this give them some incentive to stay on in the industry."

Peter Doyle, of est., said: "It's a hard job, as it involves long, antisocial hours, and that can be a challenge for young apprentices.

"If we can help give them a bit of inspiration and influence, then it's one way we can give back."

Commercial cookery student Kate Ceissman was among the 45 students involved in the event.

She said: "It's been an amazing experience seeing the chefs and the quality of food we've helped prepare."

Meanwhile, former student Sam Smith was back to help out after a "fantastic experience" a couple of years ago that led to him working for one of the chefs, Italian-born Mr Pilu.

"Since then I've worked under Giovanni, then at a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Notting Hill and in two weeks I'm off to start work at a restaurant in the south of France," he said.

Peter Kuruvita of Flying Fish restaurant and Darren Simpson, resident chef on Sunrise, also contributed to the menu for the event, which won a silver award at the 2012 TAFE NSW Innovation and Excellence Showcase last week.

Tourism and Hospitality faculty director Belinda Mackinnon said the event was a great way for students to learn from the best in the industry, and for some to gain scholarships to work in top restaurants.

"We don't have a large number of hatted restaurants or chefs in regional areas so this is a great opportunity for students," she said.

"From small beginnings this event has turned into a real campus-based event where students from many faculties get involved, and it's now a real premier event for us."

Pictured: From left, student Kate Ceissman, chef Peter Doyle, former student Sam Smith, chef Alessandro Pavoni and student Stephen Zalewski worked together on food for the annual Celebrity Chef Scholarship Dinner.

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