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Apprentice Chef's Career Fires Up with Double Award Win

With a passion for food and ambition to cook around the world, Year 12 student and aspiring chef James Burling is well on his way to a successful career as he was recently presented with two prestigious Apprenticeship awards.

James was awarded the Apprentice Employment Network Western Australia School-Based Apprentice / Trainee of the Year at the recent Awards for Excellence ceremony and was also named the winner of the Most Outstanding School-Based Apprentice Award 2022 at the Hospitality Group Training Awards Presentation. These two events seek to celebrate the young people in pursuit of career excellence in a range of industries and formally recognise the top apprentices and trainees around the state.

Completing his Apprenticeship in Commercial Cookery at South Metro TAFE, James is the first School-Based Apprentice at All Saints’ College. James is currently honing his skills at Ethos Deli + Dining and Young George in East Fremantle, under the expert guidance of Executive Chef and owner, Melissa Palinkas, and Head Chef Adam Giddings.

Alongside his Apprenticeship, James studied Mathematics, English, Health Studies and a Certificate III in Business to achieve his Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) result. As part of All Saints’ College’s ‘ATAR Plus’ approach to education, Senior School students can embark on a range of pathways which are highly individualised, allowing students to take greater agency of their learning, realise their full potential, and learn in real-world environments.

Upon graduating from All Saints’ College, James will move to his Apprenticeship full time, continuing to develop his skills and knowledge to embark on his future culinary career. James has been supported and guided by All Saints’ College VET Coordinator Mr Paul King, Hospitality Group Training Mentor Simone Hodgkinson as well as his proud family.

James’ current role at the two restaurants involves a diverse range of tasks including creating and producing dishes, working across different sections of the kitchen including larder and dessert, as well as taking on a leadership role on the pass—expediting, finessing dishes, and liaising with the Front of House team.

Not only has James’ Apprenticeship enabled him to learn key culinary skills, kitchen safety and the importance of streamlining service, he has also developed an understanding of the inner workings of a commercial restaurant and the key qualities needed to thrive in the fast-paced industry.

“I have learnt valuable communication and organisational skills as well as the ability to multitask and be resilient,” James said.

“Being a team player in the kitchen is so important as there are so many factors to consider. However, what I enjoy most is the creativity.”

Working across both restaurants during day and night shifts, as well as experiencing the challenges faced by the industry during COVID-19, has ignited James’ drive further and helped him explore his ethos as an emerging chef.

“I have learnt the thrill of discovery in the pace of the kitchen – as soon as the doors open and the orders start rolling in, the fire and passion for chasing culinary perfection ignites,” said James.

“The fire, the seasoning, the tasting, and the occasional burn or cut in the middle of a busy service are all part of the excitement and love for creating something that will delight.”

A creative and hands-on learner, James began his venture into the world of cooking and hospitality when he was 15 as a kitchenhand at Ethos Deli + Dining, and gradually became involved in different areas of the restaurant.  

“I started working as a kitchenhand and as I scrubbed the dishes and peeled potatoes, I was watching the chefs cook and plate food for service,” said James.

“The chefs could see my interest and I was given the opportunity to prepare charcuterie boards and work on the larder section as well as the chance to taste some of their dishes.”

With a keen desire to learn more and impressing the chefs and owner, Melissa, with his skills and passion, James was taken onboard as a School-Based Apprentice.

Learning from a range of talented and supportive chefs, James has also gained experience at Fraser’s Restaurant and Fraser’s Function Centre. James’ achievements during his Apprenticeship journey also include cooking at the WAFIC Awards 2021 held at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle and cooking at the Pork Star Event in 2022. James was named as a finalist for HGT Taste of the Future Competition and is currently preparing to cook for the HGT Annual Youth Skills Showcase this year.

Looking ahead to his bright future, James hopes to travel to Europe and work in a variety of kitchens, learn new dishes and techniques, and experience different cuisines.