Sarah Elliott has had a variety of occupations in her life - even a brief stint working for a matchmaking agency - but she's now focusing on the daunting goal of becoming a chef.
The Bomaderry resident has only three per cent vision in one eye but it hasn't stopped her taking on a commercial cookery course at Nowra TAFE campus.
While she went into the course earlier this year with the aim to equip herself with new skills and qualifications, her focus has now expanded.
"Around six weeks in the culinary bug started to bite and this whole, unforeseen world opened up. I decided I can't be the only vision impaired chef out there," she said.
Sarah said she knows of around six chefs in New South Wales with significant vision impairment.
Some, like her, trained blind, while others have lost their sight and later returned to the industry.
All have inspired her to take the plunge, along with her fellow TAFE students.
"I'm nearing 50 but I've met other apprentices in their 40s and 50s. I thought, if they can do it, so can I," she said.
"Yes I work differently, yes I'm not suited to every culinary environment, but there is a place out there for me.Sarah Elliott
"Age is irrelevant."
Age may be irrelevant, but Sarah knows her vision impairment will present unique challenges in a commercial cooking environment.
The kitchen equipment must be modified and her guide dog Nyssa accompanies her, except during moulting season.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT supports people with vision impairment in the community and can provide consultation regarding modifications, blindness-specific orientation and recommendations about equipment necessary to allow Sarah to safely work in a commercial kitchen.
The association also made adjustments to the kitchen at Shoalhaven TAFE campus before Sarah started the course earlier this year, specifically tactile labelling of stoves, ovens and food storage areas.
While some of the precision knife work proved one of the trickier challenges, Sarah estimated she had fewer injuries than her fellow trainees due to her extra level of care.
With the right pre-support ready to roll, Sarah has started contacting local businesses in the hopes of securing an apprenticeship.
"I've had a few bites and a few knock backs," she said.
"People can be frightened of the unknown; then there's the incredulity factor. Often, people wonder 'How on earth would I manage this if I had little or no sight'? Convincing people that it's possible is the toughest challenge.
"Yes I work differently, yes I'm not suited to every culinary environment, but there is a place out there for me."
In the meantime, Sarah continues to volunteer with the Nowra community kitchen, gaining experience and helping others.
She's also about to sit her final assessments and joked that as a mature age student, there's been more than a touch of "procrastacleaning."
As she nears the end of the course, Sarah thanked all her lecturers and support staff at TAFE, with a special shoutout to her teacher Luke De Ville, the Nowra TAFE Teacher Consultant for students with vision impairment Jodie Hoger and Stephen her teacher assistant for helping her through the journey.
She also thanked her husband Lindsay for his constant support and encouragement.
If you're representing a local business and would like to get in touch with Sarah regarding an apprenticeship, email zenia1bigpond.com or contact South Coast Register journalist Nicolette Pickard on 0429 650 302 and we will connect you directly.