FOR a 19-year-old who, by her own admission, couldn’t cook 12 months ago, Sammantha Devlin is making the most of her chef apprenticeship.
The Parkes native, now a first-year apprentice at Highland Heritage Estate, will travel to Melbourne this weekend as one of 32 finalists from across Australia who have been selected for the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef 2014 mentorship program.
It’s an opportunity money can’t buy, and Miss Devlin hopes her choc orange hazelnut tart, which netted her a place in the top 32, will also go close to a shot at the $7500 grand prize.
But 12 months ago, this sort of endeavour was the furthest thing from her mind.
“If someone had told me I was going to be a chef a year ago I would have said ‘yeah right, I can’t cook. That’s not happening’,” Miss Devlin laughed.
“I sort of fell into the apprenticeship by accident and now I absolutely love it.”
During her time in Melbourne, Miss Devlin and the finalists will dine at top restaurants and undertake master classes with some of the best chefs in Australia, including dessert kings Darren Purchese of Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio, and Jake Nicolson of Blackbird, over four days.
Run for more than 15 years, the Fonterra program has supported more than 400 trainee chefs who have gone on to celebrate successful careers, with George Calombaris, known for his role as a MasterChef judge, amongst the impressive list of alumni.
Miss Devlin was not sure what to expect in Melbourne, but she was excited about the challenge.
“I haven’t been to a competition this big yet,” she said.
“I’m excited just to go to Melbourne, I don’t really care whether I win or not.
“I’ve learnt so many different things. I never used to eat anything, and now that I’m a chef I’m learning to eat more and find more things that go with other things.
“It’s a whole different world.”
The master classes will be held in Melbourne from February 23 to 27.