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TAFE NSW helps Tanya cook up a career she loves

TAFE NSW helps Tanya cook up a career she loves

A South Windsor local has credited TAFE NSW with helping her fulfill her dream of becoming a chef, having joined the in-demand culinary industry at the age of 48.

In Australia, demand for chefs is expected to grow strongly over the next 3 years with an increase of 11,200 jobs by 2026.

Mum-of-three Tanya Laughton decided to chase her life-long dream of becoming a chef by completing a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery and Certificate IV in Kitchen Management at TAFE NSW Mount Druitt.

She is now the Head Chef on a historic training ship, MV Cape Don, where she prepares meals for marine staff and students.

Ms Laughton was inspired to enrol at TAFE NSW following a series of personal tragedies, including the loss of her grandmother and her own battle with cancer.

“I was in a black hole, and it felt like no one believed in me, but I wanted to prove to myself and to others that I could be a leader, not just as a mum leading my 3 boys, but in my career too,” she says.

“Over the years I’ve worked in landscaping, café management, hair and beauty, even as a dental nurse, but I always wanted to be a chef. From 3 and a half years old I was learning how to cook, and my first dish was Crêpes Suzette. Studying at TAFE let me make a career out of what I’ve always loved to do.”

“I’ve had so many opportunities come to me since studying at TAFE NSW. I even got to serve Princess Anne when she visited the ship as part of her Australian tour last year”.

Ms Laughton’s experience has inspired her 18-year-old son Jesse to follow in her footsteps. He is on track to complete a Certificate II in Cookery at TAFE NSW Mount Druitt in June.

Ms Laughton’s tenacity and excellence in her field were recognised last night when she was announced 2023 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year at TAFE NSW’s Excellence Awards for Western Sydney. She’s also been named a finalist for the 2023 NSW Training Awards and nominated for TAFE NSW’s Gili Awards.

She credits her success to her teachers, who made the TAFE NSW Mount Druitt campus feel like her “second home”.

“When we were studying online during COVID-19 lockdowns, I struggled with using a computer, but Chef Allan was always there to help me so that I could do my exams, and I passed with flying colours.”

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Commercial Cookery and Hospitality Allan Clarke says it’s the greatest reward to see students like Tanya succeed after their studies.

“I saw Tanya go from being a nervous student in the beginning, to being able to pass on her cooking knowledge to other members of the class. She very quickly blossomed into a leader,” Mr Clarke says.

“Our Cooking courses are designed to encourage students’ creativity by exposing them to a broad range of dishes across local and international cuisine. The Certificate IV in Kitchen Management gives them the confidence and leadership skills they need to effectively lead a commercial kitchen.”

Media contact: Emily Dart, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7921 6315.