Amanda Smith's ideal playground was the sights, smells and flavours of a food market.
Fascinated as a child by produce and books about foods such as Enid Blyton's fantasy “Enchanted Wood” series, where toffee shocks, pop-biscuits and google buns would be eaten with lashings of homemade lemonade, her passion for cooking took over.
An avid traveller, she is drawn to any food market large or small, even something out of the ordinary like an amazing camel market in Cairo.
“It seemed a natural progression to inspire others through training and skills development. As a lecturer, one of the best investments you can make is in your own learning and professional development; your passion and knowledge flow on to your students. I enjoy engaging the students in this learning process and supporting their development throughout their apprenticeship,”Amanda said.
Today, Amanda has been a chef for 31 years and now trains aspiring chefs teaching Certificate III Commercial Cookery.
She has fronted a number of initiatives involving students, industry and local producers in the Margaret River region.
It is with this hard work, diligence and ingenuity during her time at the South Institute of Technology in Margaret River that has won her the 2011 Trainer of the Year Award.
Luckily escaping the recent Margaret River bushfires whilst in Brisbane for her presentation night, the fires came within 1.2 kms of her property.
“It's been a dreadful week here -but so many stories of compassion in the community and some very lucky escapes made by some of our own staff as well as other staff that fought as volunteers,” she said.
At times commercial cookery can be ablaze with the conditions and demands of the industry acting as a deterrent for employees.
The anti-social working hours, poor reputation as a long term career path, intense work and poor remuneration can be seen as negatives by some, but not for Amanda; instead she sees these as interesting challenges.
“In 2010 I modified a national elective unit of competency 'SITHCCC023A Prepare, cook and serve specialised food items' and tailored it especially for our students in the Margaret River region. I called it 'Paddock to Plate' and sought to give students a true appreciation and understanding of the south west's superb local produce, telling the stories behind the food and how it makes it to the table.”
The practical unit allowed students to take field trips to meet with farmers, foragers, olive oil experts, truffle growers and vignerons.
The students hunted for truffles in Manjimup, pressed grapes to learn how wine is made and visited farms which bred or produced sheep's milk cheese, Wiltshire lamb, venison, marron and free range pigs.
It led students to a greater appreciation for food explained Amanda.
In the years to come Amanda foresees inviting a range of award winning local guest chefs into 2012 classes to showcase their talent, signature dishes and inspire her apprentices.
Amanda's award, a $7000 career/ study grant, will enable her to study food and wine programs next year at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley along with visiting the highly acclaimed food destination of France.
“I was shocked and delighted in equal measure. I am completely honoured at winning this award and my speech although unrehearsed reflected my thank you and support for students, industry, work colleagues, friends and family.”
“We need to keep doing a great job in our respective fields; running enriching training programs for apprentices and making a difference by engaging industry in the training process.”
Amanda is inspired by the endless food possibilities in the industry in 2030 and beyond and it is with this inspiration that she is propelling brilliant and educated chefs into the workplace.