Australia’s Chef of the Year, Thi Le has credited TAFE NSW for connecting her with leading chefs that set her up for success at the start of her career.
Le is the first ever female chef to be named Gourmet Traveller’s Chef of the Year; a peer-voted title that recognises her as the most highly regarded chef among industry leaders. Her win is even more staggering when considering that only a quarter of chefs are women, with even fewer in senior roles in the industry.
Le said TAFE NSW connected her with one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine Manfield, while participating in an all-women mentoring program for cookery students as part of her studies.
“I was paired with Chris while in the Tasting Success mentoring program at TAFE NSW. Working with her at her restaurant Universal in Sydney was quite a formative experience. It’s where I hold some of my fondest kitchen memories,” she says.
“Working with Chris taught me to hone my palate. I learned the importance of layering flavours and techniques to accentuate flavour which I don’t believe I would have been exposed to in any other kitchen.”
“TAFE NSW connected me with leaders in the industry and taught me so much about preparedness and organisation. It helped lay the foundations of me running a small market stall when I was starting out.”
Le is known for bringing a South-East Asian influence to all three of her Melbourne ventures: the hatted Vietnamese restaurant Anchovy, Laos-inspired Jeow, and banh mi bar Ca Com.
She says that being named Chef of the Year reflects an exciting shift in the industry’s benchmark of success.
“My win means it is no longer necessary to be a chef in a 3-hat venue or to be a chef using tweezers to be worthy of my peers' recognition. It signifies that culturally, how we look at food has changed.”
TV Chef Lyndey Milan OAM is the co-founder and patron of the TAFE NSW Tasting Success mentoring program, which she says is investing in tomorrow’s industry leaders.
“Tasting Success is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that pairs women with leading chefs and gives them the self-confidence, self-awareness, and skills they need to be leaders in the industry, just like Thi Le.
“Our industry mentors are carefully chosen to show the next generation of female chefs what’s possible, expose them to best industry practice and produce they might not see in an everyday restaurant.”
TAFE NSW Acting Team Leader of Cookery, Bakery, Patisserie and Nutrition Sheridan Marz said TAFE NSW’s industry partnerships add great value to students’ learning.
“TAFE NSW is proud to be investing in lifelong learning opportunities and support through industry connections to help our students stay in the field and succeed in their career.”
Media contact: Emily Dart, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, Emily.Dart1@tafensw.edu.au, 02 7921 6315.