Celebrity chef Justin North keeps it cool in the kitchen

Plating 1170 dishes in an unfamiliar kitchen, with a team of 16 TAFE students, to feed 130 of the region’s foodies might be considered high-pressure to some. 

Not to celebrity chef and food writer Justin North – well not on the outside anyway.

One of his kitchen challenges was to keep the pressure he was feeling on the inside...inside.

“This is a massive task,” he said of leading the kitchen for the 15th annual TAFE Nowra Celebrity Chef Scholarship Degustation Dinner.

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“I think every chef who has been in the industry for a while has a responsibility to nurture young chefs.

“TAFE doing these events has a very positive impact on the students. “I’d like to see more of it across Australia,” Mr North said. 

Guests at Destiny’s Restaurant will be served French meals with matching wines as part of the nine dish degustation.

The dinner, which has become a staple dish on Nowra’s social calendar, sees a celebrity chef perform with TAFE students of commercial cookery, hospitality and events.

This year’s special guest celebrity chef Justin North is the former owner and executive chef of celebrated Sydney French-fusion eatery, Becasse.

At the dinner, the lucky scholarship winner from TAFE NSW Nowra will be revealed and win a week’s work experience with Ben Willis, owner of two-hatted Canberra restaurant, Aubergine.

Mr Willis was last year’s celebrity chef at the event and will return as a special guest this year.

A number of previous scholarship winners have gone on to forge highly successful careers as chefs, according to TAFE NSW Nowra Tourism and Hospitality teacher Amanda Maynard.

“Having the opportunity to do work experience in establishments of that calibre has proven an invaluable experience,” Ms Maynard said.

“Regional apprentices don’t always get the same opportunities as their city counterparts and this scholarship aims to address that.”

One of the event’s staunchest supporters in the past was celebrity chef Darren Simpson, who tragically passed away in June, aged 48.

During Tuesday night’s dinner one of Mr Simpsons chef jackets will be auctioned. Money raised from the auction will be donated to a Shoalhaven-based mental health organisation.

​TAFE commercial cookery teacher Luke DeVille said with 16 years of feedback from students who had been through the experience, it works.

“It gives students something to aspire to,” he said.

Commercial cookery student Ian Greene enjoyed being in the kitchen with Mr North.

“To see what a chef of that calibre can do is a great experience,” he said.

“This could be a career changing experience.”

While commercial cookery students take care of the food, events students take care of the diners. They keep the front-of-house running smoothly.

Diploma in Events Management Edwina Braddick-Pham was enjoying being part of a live event.

“Having the chance to do this in a learning environment is priceless,” she said.

Fellow student Sarah Bowen was nervous but looking forward to the night.