Women may be under-represented in commercial kitchens, but when it comes to competing, they've shown they can more than hold their own. This year is the second in a row that a female has won the accolade of South Bank Institute of TAFE's Queensland Apprentice of the Year, with Chloe Donaldson of Newstead's Hatch and Co. taking out the gong at an award ceremony last night.
Donaldson succeeded last year's winner Nicole Simkin from The Summit at Mount Coot-tha.
Despite being just 22, she already has a wealth of kitchen experience under her belt, having started her cooking career at the tender age of 13.
“I worked in a Thai restaurant all through high school. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, so after school I went on to study biomedical science. I was still working in kitchens and loved it. One day I just decided that as it was really my passion I had to follow it and just didn't go back to uni.”
Donaldson was one of 10 finalists chosen out of 40 applicants for the awards. They were required to cook four portions of a main dish and three different canape options using specified key ingredients. Donaldson chose to ballotine a spatchcock with a farce of truffles and herbs and a jus gras for her main and did a texture of mushrooms for one of her canapes.
“Yes, it was nerve-racking, but I was very well organised. I had all my mis en place steps written out and everything timed,” she says.
As her prize, Donaldson won a 3-4 week stage in an Accor hotel overseas. Beyond that her long-term plans include travelling and working in some of the world's best restaurants before eventually opening her own. So what advice would she give to other females thinking of entering hospitality?
“It all comes down to passion. If you want it enough and work hard enough and have the confidence there is nothing that can hold you back.”