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Lecturer story: Telling the story behind the food with Amanda


If you had to describe lecturer Amanda Smith in one word, it would be "foodie." According to Amanda, her passion for food of all kinds started when she was just a child.

"My mum brought me up around good food and regularly took me to the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne," she says. "I've always loved food markets."

As she reached adulthood, she decided to turn this passion into a career and did her apprenticeship in commercial cookery. Once she finished her apprenticeship, she was lucky enough to continue her training in London, England. While there, she travelled around Europe and deepened her love and knowledge of food. She eventually returned to Australia where she ran her own businesses for years before shifting to a career in lecturing in the late 1990s.

With over 40 years of experience in the commercial cookery industry, Amanda now works as a full time commercial cookery lecturer at South Regional TAFE Margaret River campus. She teaches courses for both the SIT30816 Certificate III in Commercial Cookery and the SIT40516 Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery.

Helping others pursue a career in commercial cookery

At South Regional TAFE, commercial cookery students benefit from a range of practical learning experiences. These include interactive workshops, expert guest lectures and talks, industry immersion (for example, trips to local farmers' markets, and practical placements at the on-campus training restaurant, Gather and Feast.

 "We have a mixed way of delivering our restaurant services, both in industry and work placement in our restaurant, Gather and Feast," Amanda says.

Gather and Feast Training Restaurant is also at the heart of the exciting Paddock to Plate initiative, which launched in 2010. Amanda felt inspired to create the program after noticing how many people in Australia were cooking in "knifeless kitchens." She explains that more people than ever are using pre-packaged and pre-measured ingredients, without understanding where their food really comes from. That's where the Paddock to Plate program comes in.

As Amanda explains: "It helps the students understand where the produce is from. It exposes students to the connection of producers. It also connects them with seasonality. It's the story behind the food that we try to give them."

How Margaret River stands out

The Margaret River campus is located a few hours' drive south of Perth. This charming spot is known for its craft breweries, local wineries and boutique shopping. There are many perks to living in this small regional town, especially for international commercial cookery students.

"One of our strengths being in a regional area is having that connection with industry and producers," shares Amanda. She adds that it's often easier for international students to find work in a regional town after completing their studies.

"Our international students get jobs in the area and many are sponsored because there's lots of work for them."

Bringing international diversity to the commercial kitchen

One of Amanda's favourite parts of working with international students is the cultural diversity, which livens up the overall learning experience.

"One of the best things about having an international cohort is that I get to learn about their cultures," she says. "I've been lucky enough to travel quite a lot, including to some of the countries that our students come from. So, it's interesting to be able to understand their enthusiasm when they talk about a certain food or when they feel nostalgic for a certain dish."

International students also have the opportunity to create dishes from their homelands and share them with the class. Sometimes, it's pancakes and maple syrup from the Canadian students. Other times, it's delicious phở from the Vietnamese students. No matter what, she shares that this diversity is hugely beneficial to local Australian students.

"It's about the enrichment of their culture to our culture," she says.

A never-ending learning journey

According to Amanda, the skills that students gain in commercial cookery can be easily applied in a variety of careers. Skills like teamwork, health and safety, and food hygiene are useful whether students stay in hospitality or explore other fields. She urges students to remember the value of these skills and to continuously develop them.

Finally, she reminds students that, even when your course is over, your learning journey is not. Instead, she recommends treating your food education as an exciting lifelong practice.

"You never stop learning about food."

To develop strong links with industry to succeed in the future employment market, choose TAFE International Western Australia (TIWA) for globally recognised courses delivered by dedicated lecturers with industry experience and connections. Check out the wide range of courses that TIWA has to offer and detailed information on the application process. You can apply to study with TIWA by completing an online application.

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