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Brew-ha-ha: Damon's career in coffee steams ahead thanks to TAFE NSW

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga

Brew-ha-ha: Damon's career in coffee steams ahead thanks to TAFE NSW

Wagga barista Damon Schmetzer credits TAFE NSW with helping lay the platform for a promising career in coffee.

24 June, 2019

From catering to the stars to working in some of Sydney’s most exclusive hatted restaurants, Damon Schmetzer’s career is steaming ahead.

The 23-year-old graduated with a Certificate III in Hospitality and a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery from TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga in 2015, arming him with the skills and qualifications to kick-start his career.

Mr Schmetzer is currently head barista at Lake Albert’s Mock Orange and is about to embark on a new venture as barista at the soon-to-open espresso and wine bar in Fitzmaurice Street, Meccanico.

After a stint as an apprentice chef at Wagga’s Bolton on the Park, Mr Schmetzer took a professional punt, offering to do work experience at the prestigious Bentley Group eateries in Sydney, including hatted restaurants Lumi, Acme and Yellow.

The gamble paid off and Mr Schmetzer was soon offered a job with the Bentley Group, his time highlighted by catering for a group of 220 celebrities and food critics at the 2016 Good Food Guide Awards.

“It was an incredible experience: the quality of chefs is crazy, the produce is amazing and the energy of it all is intoxicating,” Mr Schemtzer said. “I was absolutely hooked.”

In 2017, Mr Schmetzer returned to Wagga to work at The Oakroom under renowned local chef Jamie Shipley. But it was during another job at local cafe Jardine’s, under Rob Illsley, that his ardour for the humble coffee bean sprouted.

It changed the trajectory of his career and Mr Schmetzer was soon training under some of the nation’s top baristas.

His advice to aspiring young chefs and baristas?

“Go to TAFE NSW; it gave me the foundations for my career and I couldn’t have got to where I am without that,” he said.

“Those basic techniques of French cooking underpin everything you do. The teachers have great industry experience and they really care about you as an individual.”

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga Head Teacher of Hospitality and Commercial Cookery Jim Creed said it was gratifying to see students’ careers – and confidence – grow.

“Damon was a talented and enthusiastic student and a great example of where talent and the right training can take you,” Mr Creed said. “There are so many jobs out there at the moment in hospitality – the sky’s the limit for TAFE NSW graduates.”

Hospitality has been identified as a “super-growth” industry but a report by Deloitte Access Economics has projected a 123,000-worker nationwide shortage will hit the industry by 2020.

To find out more about studying commercial cookery or hospitality at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga for semester two, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.