Should I head overseas to work or focus on my career in Australia?
3.5 min read
If you read the biographies of Australia’s top chefs, you’ll find that many of them have experience working in restaurants overseas. The chance to travel abroad and complete a stage (unpaid internship) is also offered as a prize in many award programs and competitions for young chefs, such as Appetite for Excellence, the Roux Scholarship and the Josephine Pignolet Award.
That’s because working in a kitchen overseas can give you a better understanding of different cultures, cuisines and produce. Seeing how different kitchens are run will teach you new cooking techniques and styles and can make you more confident.
Working as a chef in a different country can also broaden your horizons and help you make connections within the food community. I know a lot of past winners of Appetite for Excellence have stayed in touch with the people they worked with as stagiaires and these connections can lead to opportunities in the future. Take Appetite for Excellence alumni Jake Kellie as an example. While Jake was in Singapore enjoying his prize he met Dave Pynt who offered him a job as head chef at his restaurant Burnt Ends, named number 10 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Having worked in London when I was younger, one of my biggest takeaways was training in a new style. If I hadn’t learned the French techniques that I picked up working alongside Michel Roux at Waterside Inn, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now.
There isn’t one single destination that seems to lure chefs into moving away from home but it seems that chefs want to gain experience at restaurants with prestigious reputations, preferably somewhere Michelin-starred.
While these great restaurants are generally happy to let people come and learn in their kitchens by doing a stage, getting there isn’t always easy. There is the cost of travelling to the destination and long wait lists of other chefs trying to get a foot in the door. You also need a way to cover living expenses as stages are unpaid.
But you can learn great things in Australia too. It’s just a matter of trying different the cultures and cuisines available in our multicultural country. Moving to a rural or regional area can also provide a similar learning experience to going overseas. For example, Thomas Corner in Noosa is run by a good friend of mine David Raynor. He has cooking techniques that are different to mine, and he uses a lot of local produce that is unique to the area.
At the end of the day relocating to work overseas can be incredibly beneficial but it’s not going to break your career if you can’t make it there – there is so much you can learn right here your doorstep.