Shoalhaven cookery apprentice Brent Strong has won a prestigious NSW scholarship – beating off competition from around the state.
Brent, who is an exceptional final year TAFE NSW apprentice in the Illawarra, has just been named as the 2016 winner of the TAFE NSW Bicentenary Oliver Shaul Scholarship. Brent is the 28th recipient of this prestigious scholarship, which started in Australia’s Bicentenary year.
The scholarship awards excellence in commercial cookery. Applications for the scholarship are independently judged by Industry representatives that seek to award and recognise exceptional commitment, passion and culinary talent.
The scholarship will support Brent’s overseas three month work placement with restaurant Relae in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he’ll build on his learning and interest in sustainability.
Relae is the two time world winner of the Sustainable Restaurant Award and the only Michelin-starred certified organic restaurant that has started their own farm.
Brent will be working under the supervision of Head Chef, Jonathan Tam, and says this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s still sinking in. It’s such a huge opportunity.”
Brent says getting to this point in his career has been a long journey.
“I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I was originally working in finance for NAB, when I decided to follow my interest in cooking. With the support of my wife, I left finance to take up a cookery apprenticeship.”
And his interest in sustainable food?
“Working in the industry, you see a lot of food wastage. And having grown up on a farm in Jaspers Brush on the South Coast, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the lifecyle of food, the long journey it goes through from start to finish.
“Finding ways to respect the ingredients and really appreciate their value is so important to me.
“My first Head Chef was also a big influence. He was a believer in sustainable food practices, showing respect for your ingredients by maximising their use to reduce wastage.”
Brent says the chance to learn from a world-leader in sustainable food practices will position him to achieve his long term dreams.
“When I get back from Denmark, my goal is to secure a role as a Head Chef where I can cook in my own style and implement sustainlable practices in my cookery.
“The big dream is to one day open my own sustainable restaurant. It’s a big goal, which I’ve still got a lot of learning to do for, but it’s important to have a vison.”