Fonterra Proud To Be A Chef Ellyse Humphries Finalist Reveals What Drives Her

Ellyse Humphries was working as an occupational therapist for eight years before she decided to pack it all in and take on the role of an apprentice chef 100 kilometres away from her hometown in Warrnambool, country Victoria. It was not long after that she decided to enter the 2016 Fonterra Proud to be a Chef competition and placed second place in the sweets section.

Foodservice spoke to Humphries about her experiences of the competition and what advice she would give others thinking about entering.

What attracted you to a career in food?
I love food and cafe design. I walk into cafes and my heart begins to race as I become engrossed by the experience; the beautiful timber tables, the high gloss menus, the atmosphere and most importantly the smells of mouth-watering food that I watch customers eating.

How would you define your cooking style?
I like to cook simple, rustic food. This cooking style was influenced by my happy childhood where a cold winter called upon slow-cooked casseroles on mashed potato washed down by a triple batch of golden syrup dumplings.

You were involved in the 2016 Fonterra Proud to be a Chef competition. What did you find the most challenging about it?
Staying true to my simple style of cooking was a huge challenge for me. I did not think my dish was complex enough because I knew I was surrounded by so many other highly skilled, talented apprentice chefs. The masterchefs and mentors, however, encouraged us to express our own style in the kitchen, which I was proud to see paid off when I was fortunate enough to win the sweet award in the 2016 program.

 

What motivated you to enter?
For me, it wasn’t what motivated me to enter, but whom. I had a supportive educational provider in The Gordon Institute of TAFE who encouraged me to explore my passion and desire for food and suggested entering the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef competition as a way to do so.

What were some of the things that you learnt?
The most important thing that I learnt through the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef program was that those chefs who have been successful in our industry started at the exact same point that each of us apprentices started. With persistence and hard work, we too can be as successful as them.

What opportunities has it opened up for you?
I have so many opportunities in front of me as a result of the competition that it is difficult to decide what avenue to go down – not a bad problem to have! One opportunity that stands out for me is the ability to do stages (intern) at restaurants of all different calibres. Thanks to the program, I am now in a position where I can explore a variety of options.

What would you say to young, aspiring chef contemplating entering the competition?
You must apply! A structured four-day, all-expenses-paid professional development competition is unheard of in any other profession. The competition opens your eyes to the opportunities that are available to you both as an apprentice and as a qualified chef. If you don’t get in the first time, try again!

Who has been the biggest influence on you as a chef?
My dad. He has taught me many of the basics; how to hold a knife, how to bone a whole chicken, why to wash the grater as soon as you have used it, how to tell if your scotch fillet is cooked. However, most importantly, he taught me common sense.

What is your favourite dish to cook for yourself?
I’m a sweet tooth, so naturally I love to bake. Nothing beats a sticky date pudding. Savoury wise, I love parmesan and thyme crumbed lamb cutlets with vegetables.

What do you always have in the pantry cupboard?
I always have onions at the bottom of the pantry cupboard. I’ve grown a particular liking to red onions in cooking.

What piece of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
I couldn’t live without a good frypan, which helps provide caramelisation to your dish.

What do you hope to be doing in five years from now?
Cooking! I have just finished my apprenticeship, which included a one-week internship at the Shangri-La Hotel training under executive pastry chef Anna Polyviou as a prize for winning the sweet award in the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef program. From here, I am not yet sure in what capacity I will be cooking, but as long as I am still learning and developing as a chef, then I will be happy.

Applications for the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef competition is opening until Sunday November 13. To enter and for further information, visit fonterraproudtobeachef.com.au.