If you’re planning to enter Fonterra’s Proud to be a Chef program, there’s still time – but be quick, as applications close on Sunday 22 October.

For more than two decades, Australia’s leading foodservice mentoring program has provided an unrivalled experience to apprentice chefs from across the nation.

Next February will see another 32 passionate individuals embark on a four-day gastronomic adventure that is tipped to be “bigger and better than ever,” says Proud to be a Chef resident mentor and Executive Chef Mark Normoyle of Fonterra’s foodservice brand, AnchorTM Food Professionals.

Completing the mentor line-up for next year’s program is savoury mentor Stephen Nairn, executive chef of Omnia Bistro and Yugen Dining and Tea Bar, and pastry mentor Joane Yeoh, executive pastry chef and founder of Kōri Ice Cream.

Picture being flown down to Melbourne on an all-expenses-paid trip that promises to elevate your passion for cooking and knowledge needed to succeed in this craft.

From visits to a working dairy farm to dining at some of the nation’s best restaurants, the Proud to be a Chef program connects its class to a whole new meaning of the expression ‘farm to table’. 

“There’s no question Proud to be a Chef is a truly life-changing experience for all participants and I would encourage anyone who’s considering applying to get your entry in as soon as possible,” says Normoyle.

“We’ve had many finalists who never thought they would be chosen, and the important thing is to try your best to communicate your passion and commitment to becoming the best you can be.”

Each year, Proud to be a Chef hosts an awards presentation where four outstanding finalists are recognised for their work.

“I’ll never forget the experience – I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the other finalists, and it’s fantastic to be part of that community,” says 2023 international culinary scholarship winner Archer Houghton.

“The mentors were fabulous and since completing the program I’ve met up with our pastry mentor Kay-Lene Tan of Tonka, who has been a big support.

The opportunities Proud to be a Chef offers are just incredible – so much is packed into the four days and to be able to work with chefs who blow your mind, to go into their restaurants, see their kitchens, and ask them questions is amazing.”

Isaac Nix, was the winner of the best savoury dish this year, and said the experience was unrivalled.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other people who are at the same point in their career as you, and see where everyone is at and what ideas they have for the future.

Spending time with like-minded people is really inspiring, and the mentors are wonderful. They all have different career paths so being able to learn from each one and ask them questions about how they got where they are is very eye-opening. Having gone through the program I feel if I need to ask them for advice, that line of communication is always open.”

Being a Proud to be a Chef finalist has also opened doors for Nix. “I’ve had the chance to do a TV segment and some other news opportunities, so there’s definitely a benefit in being recognised,” he says.

Bethany Harman, the best sweet dish winner, says Proud to be a Chef was: “a truly inspiring experience – I loved meeting other passionate apprentices, and having the chance to dine at some incredible restaurants. I learned so much from the mentors as well – Dan Giraldo of Maha, who was our savoury mentor, is super-approachable and willing to give so much advice. He always takes the time to talk and is really genuine and interested in what you’re doing.”

Zane Hamka-Clark, this year’s best use of social media winner, has continued documenting his culinary journey online post-Proud to be a Chef.

“It’s a really great program and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it,” he says.

“I met other apprentice chefs from all around Australia and the chance for us all to learn from each other as well as the mentors was amazing.”

In a few months, Zane is heading to Paris to study for a diploma of plant-based culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu.

“I’m really passionate about plant-based food, I think it’s important for food sustainability so when I found out about the course I jumped at it. I’m also hoping it will open doors to future work opportunities.”

Applications for Proud to Be a Chef 2024 are open until 11.59pm on 22 October 2023.

To enter, applicants need to submit an original recipe using an AnchorTM Food Professionals product and answer questions about their career aspirations.

Visit www.proudtobeachef.com for details.