My time in the NICI program has been a very rewarding and significant year of my life. When I came to Sydney to undertake my Certificate III in Commercial Cookery within Apprenticeship’s NSW, I had no idea of the challenges and experiences to be had and the friendships to be made. I learnt so many things in so many fields I had never even known existed within the umbrella of the hospitality industry. I look forward to putting my knowledge into practice when returning to my host restaurant. I still dream of one day owning my own restaurant however I’m enjoying exploring all aspects of the Cookery Industry until I have all the skills to do this.

Adam Miller (Fratelli Fresh Apprentice)

Adam Miller
Malarie is of the Dhungutti and Barkinji people. Dhungutti is situated in Kemspey NSW & Barkinji is red country, Wilcannia.

Malarie respects her Indigenous heritage and culture, Malarie’s grandmother was taken to Kootamundra Women’s Home during the stolen generation which meant many of the cultural traditions and her tribe’s language were not passed down to her.

Malarie decided to take part in the National Indigenous Culinary for a career change after spending six years working in community services. She wants to cook, be a good role model and a positive representative of Indigenous people.

Barry McDonald is Malarie’s NICI Culinary Guardian and in 5-10 years she sees herself cooking, travelling and teaching cooking.

Ryan is of the Anaiwan people from NSW Northern Tablelands region. Ryan’s culture means everything to him and is proud that his ancestors were the first people to discover and inhabit Australia.

Ryan’s mother is a Student Support Officer at the University of New England’s Oorala Aboriginal Centre. Ryan has been extremely active in representing his community in the area of sports. He was chosen to be part of Australian Rugby’s Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development team where he made the NSW rugby union team. Ryan was also part of Football NSW’s Harry Williams Indigenous Talent Identification Program.

His role model is his aboriginal teacher at Armidale City Public School Mr. Bill WIdders. Ryan decided to take part in the National Indigenous Culinary Institute, as he loves food and thought this would be a great opportunity for him especially coming for a small community in regional NSW where there aren’t many opportunities.

Ryan is looking forward to the amazing feeling he will get when he has a qualified trade behind him which will be able to take him anywhere is the world. Ryan’s NICI Culinary Guardian is Michael McMahon of Catalina and in 5-10 years he would like to be working in a restaurant in California.

John is of the Gamaliel people from the Bathurst NSW. John started his career at the Ayres Rock Resort where he was able to explain his cultural to visitors.

He has seen the National Indigenous Culinary Institutes program as an excellent way to continue and broaden his cookery skills by working in Australia’s top restaurants.

John says “the combination of excellent professional training and working in elite restaurants will set us fellas up for success into the future”

Matt Moran from Aria is John’s NICI Culinary Guardian. So far John has found working at Aria in lighting and has enjoyed gaining new skills and has found himself a valued member of the Aria team.

John has a dream of one day opening his own restaurant and would like to employ people from his community and try and raise the culinary skills of Indigenous people.

He would like to use his experience with this program to motivate other Indigenous people to become successful in the hospitality industry and forge a career for themselves.

Nathan is part of Darug people based in Sydney’s Penrith region. Nathan’s Indigenous culture and is really important to him and he was raised to be proud of his heritage. Nathan learnt a lot about his culture through his mum and Elders.

Nathan is passionate about becoming a chef. He had already done part of a 1st year apprenticeship when he saw an ad for the National Indigenous Culinary Institute.

Nathan’s NICI Culinary Guardian is Peter Doyle from Est. In 5-10 years Nathan would like to be working towards becoming an executive chef and perhaps work in France or Germany.

Ashleigh is of the Dharug people from the Blue Mountains and Nepean region. Her indigenous heritage means everything to her and she loves the history and culture associated with this. Ashleigh likes indigenous cultural activities including aboriginal painting and taking part in traditional cultural ceremonies. Ashleigh’s Dad, Nan and her Aunty Edna are her role models and her Aunty Edna is an extremely active member of the indigenous community.

Ever since Ashleigh took her first home economics class in year 7 she has always wanted to become a chef and has never thought of any other career path.

Ashleigh decide to take part in the National Indigenous Culinary Institute to become a better person both in her career and her life in general and wanted to put herself out there and show her community that if you put your mind to it and have a dream you can get somewhere in your life.

Barry McDonald from Fratelli Fresh is Ashleigh’s NICI Culinary Guardian and her time so far with the Barry and his team has created a passion for Italy, the food and cultural history of the country. In 5-10 years time Ashleigh sees herself as a qualified chef and hopefully a pastry chef and wants to travel and experience the different foods of the world, especially Italy.

Ashleigh has moved into her second year of the NICI program and changed restaurant to Rockpool Bar and Grill. Her new Culinary Guardian is Neil Perry. She has enjoyed the changed in style of cooking.


About Us

The National Indigenous Culinary Institute (NICI) is an industry inspired and initiated program of national significance to create highly skilled Indigenous chefs.

The NICI offers elite training and experience for aspiring Indigenous chefs who will be trained and mentored by Australia’s top chefs at host restaurants such as Café Sopra, Rockpool Bar and Grill, QT and Catalina. Up to twelve leading Sydney based chefs will be Culinary Guardians to the Indigenous trainee chefs.

Designed by Neil Perry, Guillaume Brahimi, Michael McMahon, Jill Dupleix, Terry Durack and Barry McDonald, the three-year program combines unique on‐the‐job training with a contemporary industry designed qualification. Our trainee chef program aims produce a group of chefs trained in Australia’s top restaurants who will be role models and leaders for up and coming Indigenous trainees.

Our Goals:

  • Inspire Indigenous chefs to become leaders in the industry.
  • Enable aspiring Indigenous chefs to experience and be immersed in excellence in culinary skills and the highest levels of achievement in the hospitality industry.
  • Establish an industry driven and designed program to train Indigenous chefs who have the skills and drive to work in, or own, quality restaurants.
  • Establish a prestige recognition framework under the NICI banner which is endorsed by Australia’s top chefs.

Our Program:

  • A number of aspiring Indigenous chefs will be employed as trainees by Culinary Guardians in top restaurants in an enterprise based training model. The goal is for 50% male and 50% female trainees.
  • Each Indigenous trainee will be personally mentored by a Culinary Guardian.
  • The program commenced in Sydney, targeting Sydney-based trainees and restaurants. The program successfully gained further reach targeting regional and rural NSW also. Future programs will be based in Brisbane and Melbourne.
  • The first intake of trainee chefs commenced in October 2012 with the second intake commencing in January 2014
  • Indigenous trainees will be employed for three years with a guarantee of ongoing employment at either their host restaurant, Ayers Rock Resort or with another participating restaurant.
  • Trainees will be mentored by a different Culinary Guardian each year and work in three different restaurants over the course of the program.
  • A key feature of the program is the opportunity for trainees to undertake a work placement at Ayers Rock Resort.
  • The program has been custom designed by the Culinary Guardians such as Neil Perry, Perry, Guillaume Brahimi, Michael McMahon, Jill Dupleix, Terry Durack and Barry McDonald featuring the key skill sets which are valued and required by top level restaurants.
  • The William Angliss Institute, Australia’s leading hospitality trainer, has been engaged to develop and accredit the training course, and to assist in sourcing funding for delivery of the program.
  • Significant funding will be required to develop and deliver the NICI program. Corporate sponsorship is a key source of funds and Government support has been provided through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Employment Program.

Program Design:

  • The NICI initiative presents a unique opportunity to establish a training and development program combining the highest level of culinary and hospitality business expertise with best practice Indigenous employment strategies.
  • The Culinary Guardians will develop and drive the industry content, training and work experiences for the Indigenous trainee chefs.
  • The Indigenous Land Corporation will develop and oversee Indigenous engagement, participation and support in the program as an essential element in ensuring the success of the program in the immediate and longer term.