Natalia Viera Orilio moved to Perth with the dream of becoming a chef. After working on the famous Rottnest Island and completing three TAFE International Western Australia (TIWA) courses, Natalia has finally achieved that dream.
Let’s take you through her journey to get there and what her life looks like today.
A passion for food
Natalia has been passionate about food from a young age. Growing up in Brazil with an Italian background, cooking was always a big part of her life.
“Flavours, aromas, textures and colours are part of my culture and my story” says Natalia. “My parents are amazing cooks and the kitchen has always been a pleasant place to catch up, and share moments and laughs with a glass of wine.”
When Natalia was older and began cooking some of her family’s recipes herself, she realised they were good enough to sell and began her own food business.
“I was very happy with all the feedback I received at the time and as my family was extremely supportive, I decided that the time had come to finally work with my passion and become a chef.”
Moving to Perth
Having already spent some time living in Canada and learning English, Natalia was interested in pursuing her dream of becoming a chef abroad and getting the opportunity to experience another culture.
“Out of all the possible choices, I decided to come to Australia, and Perth specifically because of the weather, beautiful landscapes and beaches, which I'm still in love with today!” she says.
Natalia moved to Perth Western Australia in 2018, and after two months she found her first ever restaurant job on the beautiful Rottnest Island(opens in a new tab). Located a short ferry ride away from Perth, Rottnest Island is a protected nature reserve surrounded by incredible beaches and home to the world’s happiest animal, the quokka!
“I had the opportunity to work in a brand new restaurant with a great team, who became my friends later on, and an amazing executive head chef who became my mentor in the kitchen and gave me the confidence to grow in this career,” she says.
Studying with TIWA
After some time working in the hospitality industry on Rottnest Island, Natalia was certain that becoming a chef was the right career for her.
“My biggest goal was getting my qualification as a chef and I decided to study at TAFE for the high quality education that I could get.”
Natalia initially enrolled in TIWA’s SIT30816 Certificate III in Commercial Cookery before going on to also complete a SIT40516 Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at South Metropolitan TAFE’s Bentley campus.
But Natalia was still eager to learn more, so after achieving these qualifications she completed a SIT50416 Diploma of Hospitality Management which she described as “essential to keep myself on top of what is expected by the industry and my professional life.”
Learning from the best
Natalia really enjoyed studying at South Metropolitan TAFE’s Bentley campus and was impressed by the high level of education she received.
“South Metropolitan TAFE has some of the best hospitality industry professionals, and to have the chance to absorb all of their knowledge was priceless.” she says. “I can say with no doubts that to be there with my lecturers was essential to pushing myself every day and achieving my goals. The lecturers were so supportive and they all played a big part in my journey to becoming a professional chef in Perth.”
Natalia particularly enjoyed the practical classes, where she had the opportunity to practise her skills in a real kitchen setting. “The kitchen classes were really fun and it was nice to share my previous experience with my classmates,” she says.
But it was the hospitality management classes that really stood out. “It was really great to learn how to run a business in hospitality and management, and gain a proper understanding of all the sectors in this area.”
Achieving her dream
After graduating from her course, Natalia decided to stay in Perth and find a role in the local hospitality industry. Natalia’s dream of becoming a chef was soon achieved and she is now working as a senior chef de partie at Crown’s Rockpool Bar & Grill(opens in a new tab).
Enjoying both her work at Rockpool Bar & Grill and her life in Perth, Natalia is focused on “pushing myself on a daily basis to grow.”
Advice for future international students
For any international students who are considering a career in hospitality in Perth, Natalia has some words of advice.
“Being an international student is not always easy and it’s hard to be away from your family and friends, especially after COVID-19. But when you find yourself in this career, you will want to do the best that you can and if you don’t give up and work hard, then this is what makes you stronger,” she says.
“TAFE can open doors to this industry. Bentley campus has a great international student centre, with incredible and very helpful staff who make you feel at home. It’s really worth it.”
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can contact TIWA for advice(opens in a new tab) on how to navigate your study and career journey.