Hunter Culinary Association

Winners of three highly anticipated TAFE NSW and Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) annual scholarships were announced last night at an awards ceremony held to celebrate the best apprentice chefs and front of house professionals for 2018. 

The winners were selected following a series of interviews, cooking assessments and challenges that saw them battle it out for the three hotly contested awards:

·      Brett Graham Scholarship.

·      First Creek Wines Front of House Scholarship.

·      Hunter Culinary Association Rising Star Award.

Apprentice chef Jacob Hobbs of Muse Restaurant was named winner of the $10,000 Brett Graham Scholarship. He is one of the youngest apprentices at just 17 to have won the prestigious award. Abbey Taylor of Margan Restaurant took out the First Creek Front of House Scholarship and the Rising Star Award was presented to Vienna Dowell from Yellow Billy  Restaurant.

Designed to foster the talent of young local apprentice chefs, the $10,000 Brett Graham scholarship gives Jacob a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly to London and work alongside Brett Graham at The Ledbury in London’s Notting Hill, which is currently ranked inthe World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The Brett Graham Scholarship is a partnership between the Hunter Culinary Association and TAFE NSW and is named after Novocastrian Brett Graham, who is one of TAFE NSW’s most successful alumni.

The three Brett Graham Scholarship finalists were selected from an initial group of nine apprentices. Each created, prepared and cooked a menu based on ingredients selected by Brett Graham while also managing and directing a kitchen “support team” of apprentices. The individual courses were served to industry guests and the panel of expert judges.

TAFE NSW Commercial Cookery Teacher and head judge Tracey Amos said, the standard of dishes produced by this year’s entrants was exceptionally high, with all three finalists showing a great understanding of the importance of using quality produce and creating subtle flavour combinations in their dishes.’ 

‘This year we were very fortunate to have acclaimed Sydney chef Jane Strode as guest judge, along with Georgia Maher from NBN News and Warren Fouracre from The Junction Hotel. We jointly agreed that Jacob was the deserving winner.’

The First Creek Wines Front of House Scholarship saw ten hospitality professionals compete this year for the top prize. 

After a thorough judging and interview process, the three winners were; Abbey Taylor of Margan Restaurant took home the coveted First Creek Wines $5,000 Scholarship; as a very close second Patrick Hester of Yellow Billy Restaurant was awarded $1000 to contribute to wine training through the Wine Education & Spirit Trust (WSET); and in third place Jessica Thorley from EXP Restaurant was awarded a wine decanter.

Vienna Dowell from Yellow Billy Restaurant was awarded The Hunter Culinary Association Rising Star Award. This award recognises the potential of a young hospitality industry professional, encouraging them to continue education with a fully funded Diploma of Hospitality Management from TAFE NSW.

Hunter Culinary Association Chairman Gus Maher said, in our most competitive year yet, the judges were very impressed with the high calibre of front of house applicants who all performed strongly.’

‘This is great news for our region and is evidence of the dedication and focus of those working within the industry.’