Blogs (Media Centre)

NINA has so mushroom for her love of cooking

TAFE NSW Wentworth Falls

5 February 2019


Australian’s obsession and love of all things food does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. According to the 2016 Census, the food service and accommodation sector accounts for 738,231 positions or 6.9 per cent of Australia’s total working population.

Of the 738,231 positions, a staggering 80,723 were for chefs, an increase of over 20,000 jobs in the 2011 census. However, despite the increase in job opportunities, TAFE NSW research has found that there is a national skills shortage for qualified chefs with 65 per cent of position unfilled, and 70 per cent of job postings in this industry asked for a certificate level qualification.

For Nina Huynh, the desire to be a chef was one that she has held onto since she was in high school. Now in her late twenties, Nina has completed the Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW Wentworth Falls and is now working at Yellow, Sydney's first hatted vegetarian restaurant.

“I graduated high school with a UAI in the 90s, I tried to study medical science at university but something was missing and it just wasn’t what I was looking for,” says Nina Huynh.

“My life was all about food and the kitchen, the smell, the sounds – everything, it was where I knew I wanted to be.

“I decided to take the first steps by doing a barista course and find work as a barista. It was one evening I looked up courses online and I just went for it by enrolling in the Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW Wentworth Falls. I chose that location as I wanted to learn about French cookery – the basics, fundamentals plus the teachers there had so much experience I could learn a lot from them.”

A young single mother with a four year old, Nina also wanted to be a good role model for her daughter and show her that that it was possible to be a parent and study full time in order to fulfil your dreams.

Head Chef at Yellow, Chris Benedet, said “TAFE NSW has laid the foundation for Nina to climb her way to the top. Nina is a very dedicated and super passionate chef who comes to work every day with enthusiasm that inspires others. She often finds herself at home experimenting on her days off, such is her commitment.”

“As a single mother in the highly demanding hospitality industry it’s not easy on a day to day basis, but she works hard for what she wants and finds a way to juggle a work life balance with both enthusiasm and dedication, she’s truly a role model not just for woman in our industry but single mums alike.”

During her studies, Nina would volunteer at the local farmers’ markets by unloading trucks and learning about seasonal produce. She now uses her own money to purchase overflow fruit and vegetables and donates it to the community preschool her daughter attends.

“It’s never too late to do what you really want to do. If you put your mind to it, you can do it. People think that there are certain ways that you have to achieve your dreams but you just need to believe in yourself. TAFE NSW was so flexible and it was an incredible experience – something I’ll never forget,” Nina said.

Nina’s hard work and dedication to her studies was recognised when she was awarded the 2018 TAFE NSW Excellence Award for Tourism and Experience Services.

TAFE NSW Blue Mountains Head Teacher Tourism and Hospitality, Wendy Ashcroft-Ware, said “Nina had to overcome personal adversity, and at no stage did she let it affect her studies or the raising of her daughter. She is a positive role model and is an excellent team player.”

Yellow is a vegetarian bistro in Potts Point from the award-winning team behind Bentley Restaurant + Bar, Monopole and Cirrus. The theme is inspired by the European dining scene, where contemporary food and wine are served in an informal setting at affordable prices.

“The thing I love most about working at Yellow is that it’s such an exciting and new space. We are turning everything on its head, creating new ways to treat vegetables and playing with seasonality,” says Nina.

“Being a chef has always been my dream, I have always admired chefs for all the hard work, when a dish is plated up it’s so beautiful. If I had not studied at TAFE NSW Blue Mountains, I would never have learnt the skills that I now have and be working in such an amazing restaurant. I’m really enjoying honing my chef skills and learning every day.”

To learn more about studying cooking at TAFE NSW visit or call 131 601.