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Jakeb Jesser Wins Best Apprentice in Commercial Cookery

02 Nov 2018

Former qualified carpenter and now Commercial Cookery student Jakeb Jesser grew up in the northern NSW coastal town of Yamba, moving to Melbourne 18 months ago to undertake his cooking apprenticeship. Despite having lived, worked and studied in our fair city and achieving all the gongs, he still feels somewhat of a ‘newbie’ around town. This year Jakeb won Best Overall Apprentice in Victoria at the recent Australian TAFE Culinary Challenge.

Thirteen Melbourne Polytechnic students competing against learners from many other TAFEs and private business in the Australian TAFE Culinary Challenge run by the Australian Culinary Federation. Gary Paterson, Manager, Hospitality, says ‘it’s exciting that our students achieved some amazing results.’ Jakeb also won Best 2nd Year Apprentice.

Melbourne Polytechnic was also awarded ‘Best Establishment’ for 2018. Gary says, ‘this is a highly recognised award for the establishment that gains the most points for medals received. We are the second TAFE ever to achieve this award and join the honour-roll with past winners including Vue De Monde and Scott Pickett’s Estelle.’

Why Commercial Cookery?

Wanting to make a change from Carpentry, Jakeb opted for a complete change and decided to become a barista. He started working front of house in a café and really enjoyed his change of career. One day he was asked to cover a shift for someone in the kitchen, ‘I’ve always really enjoyed cooking at home and really liked the fast-paced environment and team work that the commercial kitchen provided. I started getting more kitchen shifts and never looked back. Head chef, Fiona Farlow, was very supportive and a great mentor.’ It was Fiona who encouraged Jakeb to move to Melbourne and take up an apprenticeship!

Why Melbourne Polytechnic?

Once in Melbourne, Jakeb found work with middle-eastern influenced restaurant, Feast of Merit,  Richmond. ‘Feast of Merit had had previous apprentices from Melbourne Polytechnic and spoke highly of the program and were more than happy for me to study at Melb Poly, too’.

Jakeb needed no further bidding and enrolled himself into the Certificate III in Commercial Cookery (Apprenticeship) program.

‘I really enjoy my course and have had some incredible teachers who have been very nurturing and knowledgeable. I also really enjoy my classes with Chef Muriel (Cassidy) as they are so engaging and really laid a solid foundation for basic understanding of cooking techniques.’

‘Being pushed out of my comfort zone in dessert class with Kristina Zorman was also incredibly challenging and rewarding. There’s no doubt I’ve made some great friends with class mates and I really love sharing experiences and advice with other young chefs in the same boat as me.’

Theory and Practice Come Together 

Jakeb has already undertaken so much during his time with Melbourne Polytechnic, ‘My course has been so much more than I was expecting, I’ve really enjoyed the structured learning environment of the class room and the practical kitchens.’

A great thing for Jakeb is that as part of his apprenticeship, he’s had the added advantage of work-based training and assessment, along with general classroom teaching/training and assessment. ‘Melbourne Polytechnic has opened so many doors for me. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be selected for a mobility grant to Korea for two weeks and was exposed to a whole new cuisine and culture. John Hand (Training Teacher, Hospitality) was our guide and showed us some really incredible restaurants, street food and experiences.’

‘I competed in the Australian Culinary Challenge/Trophy and made it through to State level. Leading up to the State final, I had incredible support from Mark (Dowling) and Gary (Paterson). They provided us with time and space to practice our competition dishes, offering really great advice and critiques.’ Of course, we already know Jakeb won ‘not only best second year apprentice but best overall apprentice’ and will go on to represent Victoria in Canberra in the nationals, early next year.

What Next For Jakeb? 

Once Jakeb completes his apprenticeship, the world really will be his oyster. ‘I’d love to go on a working holiday in some really great restaurants overseas and get a better understanding of different cuisines. One day I would love to open my own restaurant.’

Jakeb now works for one of Australia’s finest chefs, Andrew McConnell, at the Builders Arms Hotel, in Fitzroy. Andrew’s been described as a ‘shrewd businessman with an innate ability to pick the next big dining trend before it’s a trend.’ So Jakeb is in the very best company and possible learning environment to go on and do even greater things. ‘I’m so lucky to be surrounded by great mentors. Every day I learn something new and am pushed to expand my knowledge and skillset.’

‘I can’t recommend Melbourne Polytechnic highly enough. Since studying here so many doors have opened for me, I’ve learnt so much, made great friends and had some awesome experiences. I really look forward to completing my course here.’

In 2019, the Cert III in Commercial Cookery (NON-Apprenticeship) is offered tuition free as part of the Victorian Government’s suite of FREE TAFE courses. Have a look at our website for a list of FREE TAFE courses, or head to the Hospitality or Commercial Cookery pages for more information and book yourself into an Information and Enrolment session for the course you’re interested in.

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