THE nation’s most accomplished chefs are becoming “culinary guardians” to indigenous trainees in Australia’s most sought after restaurants.

Neil Perry, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Moran and Robert Marchetti are among those offering their skills and expertise to train and mentor indigenous trainee chefs.

The National Indigenous Culinary Institute has begun the search for Australia’s most promising indigenous chefs, and will today launch its 2014 indigenous trainee chef program seeking applicants.

Malarie Webster, of the Dhungutti and Barkindji people of Kempsey in NSW, decided to take part in the program for a career change after six years working in community services.

Barry McDonald of Fratelli Fresh is her Culinary Guardian.

“I saw the program as a great opportunity to explore my love of food and turn it into a career. I also feel the program is important in creating good role models in the indigenous community, so I’m keen to use this experience to become a positive representative for indigenous people striving to reach their goals,” she said yesterday.

Michael McMahon, owner of Sydney’s Catalina restaurant, believes the program is paving the way for a strong representation of indigenous chefs in Australia’s culinary landscape.

“It’s a fantastic initiative to empower indigenous chefs to begin rewarding careers in Sydney’s restaurant scene,” he said.

The apprentices will undertake three years of training with the chefs, moving to a different restaurant each year to expand their skills and networks. They will begin their training early next year at the inner-Sydney Surry Hills campus of the William Angliss Institute before being placed in the restaurants.

Ryan Battersby, one of NICI’s first apprentices, believes the program has provided the support and training he needed for success in a commercial kitchen.

“I’ve found the course itself has been invaluable,” he said. “I’ve learned an incredible amount with William Angliss Institute and the support I’ve received through the NICI, from advice to work placement has been fantastic.”

NICI last night celebrated a successful 2013 program with its chefs, apprentices and industry supporters at Cafe Nice.

NICI co-ordinator Cain Slater said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a great launch pad for those wanting to forge a long and rewarding career in hospitality under the guidance of the great minds in Sydney’s restaurant scene.”

Reference: The Australian