TAFE SA graduate Courtney Davis thrives on the pressure of cooking in a professional kitchen but admits to being overwhelmed when she was named Apprentice Chef of the Year at the Restaurant and Catering Hostplus Awards.
“I was quite shocked, but it was a really good moment, I was really happy to win,” Courtney says.
The Riverland-based apprentice received her award for excellence at a presentation dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre last month.
The Restaurant and Catering Australia awards are presented in each state and are the only awards for the industry with an independent judging system.
Courtney is apprentice chef at Eleni’s Restaurant, at Mallee Estate Wines, in Renmark. She started as a kitchenhand when the restaurant opened in 2017 and was soon offered an apprenticeship.
“The head chef at the time (David Donehue) could see that I was good at multi-tasking and thinking on my feet and he really encouraged me,” she says.
“I love the pressure, I thrive on it, and when I look back, I like seeing how much I’ve grown over my apprenticeship.”
As part of her training, Courtney studied a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at TAFE SA’s Berri Campus where she says she enjoyed the support and education provided by her lecturers.
“The teachers are amazing, so knowledgeable and I liked hearing their stories. My lecturers Gary and Alistair were really passionate about the industry.”
Courtney says she works for a “wonderful family” at Eleni’s Restaurant, which serves Greek cuisine based on traditional recipes but with a modern twist.
“I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t until I was offered the apprenticeship that I realised I wanted to make a career out of it,” she says.
“I love being creative and our head chef (Peter Katsaitis) is super patient and lets me explore food ideas.
“The hours can be challenging, especially being away from family and friends, but the award reminds me that it’s all worth it.”
CAPTION: Courtney Davis is pictured with Eleni Markeas, co-owner of Mallee Estate Wines.