It’s the achievements of practical learners such as superstar apprentice chef Cris Matkowski that will be celebrated during this year’s upcoming National Skills Week (26 August-1 September).
By focusing attention on the benefits of skills and training, the aim of NSWK—whose theme this year is ‘Succeed your Way’—is to inspire Australians of all ages to explore the skills that Industry needs to advance Australia’s competitiveness and global opportunity, and raise the status of practical and vocational learning.
Matkowski, a 21-year-old Ryde TAFE commercial cookery student who balances his studies with a catering job at The Star Culinary Institute—and who worked for three months at Flying Fish at The Star Sydney in his last rotation as an apprentice chef—said he has been passionate about food since he was a child.
“Both my mum and my grandmother are from Chile and they brought a lot of their food into the house, and my dad’s side is Polish, and two times a week I would go to my grandma’s house and cook,’’ Matkowski said.
“I then took that passion when I was younger and pursued it as a career through school and work placements.”
At Flying Fish, Matkowski says the focus is on technique and skill.
“You have an opportunity to learn the roots of cooking from sauces being made from scratch to the processes and produce. The focus is working with natural ingredients and the best Australian produce.”
Working as an apprentice, Matkowski says some of the challenges have been “adapting to a new restaurant environment as each is very different. However, in saying this they want to get the best product they can. You need to understand how to work effectively and organisation is important.”
So what are the young chef’s longer-term ambitions? “Having worked in the industry for a few years now, my ambitions have evolved. Initially, I wanted to specialise in pastries, but now I’d like to develop my experience across all aspects of a restaurant.”