Hittin' the road - Episode 3: Nowra

This is about top city chefs recognising the talent and skills of TAFE apprentice chefs in the regions

Day 2 of our TAFE road trip and I started at Nowra Campus. There's always a lot going on at Nowra, but this week there was a particularly excited buzz in the air, due to the annual TAFE Celebrity Chef event. Methinks I timed my visit well.

TAFE Celebrity Chef is Nowra Campus' signature event, and has been going for 12 years. It's seen 12 high profile head chefs work in the kitchens at Nowra TAFE, alongside apprentice chef students who get to experience working under chefs who have a "hatted" restaurant. The resulting sumptuous, multi-course meal is then served to approximately 150 enthusiastic diners in the elegant surrounds of Destiny's recently-renovated on-campus training restaurant.

And to top it all off, this year's celebrity chef was none other than Mr Colin Fassnidge! My taste buds were already dancing in delight.

The brains, heart and nerve behind TAFE Celebrity Chef is Senior Head Teacher, Di Laver, who retires in September after 37 years in the industry. I had a coffee and a chat with Di, who is clearly as passionate as ever about the event and the legacy she'll be leaving behind for others to continue.

Local industry and businesses are very supportive as well, with all proceeds contributing towards future scholarships for local students.

Another aspect of the event that makes it so wonderful is that it provides an opportunity for students from different faculties and industry areas to work together, such as Events Management, Tourism & Hospitality, Building & Construction, and of course, Screen & Media to record it for posterity.

Diploma of Events student Ben May played a big role this year. He's been busy organising a lot of the supporting activities and themes that help make the night memorable for everyone. Part of Ben's idea was to design and construct a vertical herb garden, which would provide herbs for some of the night's dishes.

His Diploma of Events classmate, Elly Bailey mused on what TAFE Celebrity Chef means to her. "It's a new experience for me," she said, when I chatted with her between courses at the official ‘media centre'. "It gives me a new understanding of how an event like this works, how it's all put together. Seeing it all from backstage is fascinating."

Rohan, a Diploma of Screen & Media student also ponders on the "backstage" aspect of a large, glamorous event like TAFE Celebrity Chef. "Often it seems like complete chaos back there, but you realise that it's actually pretty orderly," he said. "It's interesting learning how to keep it all going amidst ‘chaos'."

Illawarra Institute Director, Dianne Murray, is rightly proud of TAFE Celebrity Chef and what it means for the Institute and for local apprentice chefs. "This is about top city chefs recognising the talent and skills of TAFE apprentice chefs in the regions," she said.

So how did I (and my taste buds) experience the 2014 TAFE Celebrity Chef? Yum!… think seared scallop served with avocado puree… think petuna ocean trout with horseradish snow and vanilla cucumber… think chocolate delice with corn flake ice cream. Mmmmm. I'm still thinking of them now. Thanks Nowra TAFE and congratulations to everyone involved in 2014 TAFE Celebrity Chef.

Next stop... Shellharbour.