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After a host of nerve-wracking challenges, assessments and interviews, the winners of the Brett Graham Scholarship, the First Creek Front of House Scholarship and the Hunter Culinary Association Rising Star Award were announced at a gala industry event held in Newcastle last night.
 
Apprentice chef Nele Sadler from Subo was named as winner of the prestigious $10,000 Brett Graham Scholarship and Stephane Pommier of Muse Dining and Muse Kitchen took out the First Creek Front of House Scholarship worth a total of $6,000.
 
The inaugural Rising Star Award was presented to Abbey Taylor from Margan restaurant to reward her hard work to date and encourage their continued education with a fully funded Diploma of Hospitality Management from Hunter TAFE.
 
The three Brett Graham Award finalists, Kana Seaton from Emerson's Cafe and Restaurant, Nele Sadler from Subo and Jakeal Hector from Hobarts provided the three course meal for the gathered guests as the final part of their assessment.
 
Each of them had to design, prepare and cook a menu based on ingredients selected by Brett Graham as well as direct and manage a kitchen ‘support team’ of apprentices.
 
The individual courses from each finalist were served to 60 lucky industry members, as well as a panel of expert judges including Troy Rhoades-­Brown of Muse Dining in the Hunter Valley, Food Editor Lisa Rockman from The Herald and teacher, Tracey Amos from Hunter TAFE.
 
Describing his experience on the panel, Troy Rhoades –Brown said, “While it is always an honour to be involved in the judging process, it never gets any easier! The standard was as high and as creative as ever, with all three finalists showing an excellent understanding of subtle flavour combinations, seasonality and quality produce. We all agreed that Nele was deserving as the eventual winner, and as a previous recipient of the scholarship myself, I know just how positive an impact this win will have on her future career."
 
As the scholarship winner Nele Sadler will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly to London and work alongside Brett at his two Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury, and learn the ropes in one of the world’s best kitchens. Some take an opportunity to follow the footsteps of previous recipients whom have secured roles and chosen to stay in the UK to further their experience.
 
Alternatively, she can then put the rest of their winnings toward dining out and experiencing all that Europe has to offer, before returning home to commence a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery at Hunter TAFE.
 
Stephane Pommier winner of the First Creek Front of House Scholarship Award will also be able to put their prize towards international travel to sample the world’s best restaurants before bringing their findings back to the Hunter and starting a qualification thanks to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
 
Jane Hyland, a highly regarded front of house industry professional and owner of 4Fourteen in Surry Hills with her partner and head chef Colin Fassnidge was thrilled to be involved in selecting and awarding this year’s First Creek scholarship winner.
 
“Excellent front of house staff should be rewarded and celebrated just as much as their kitchen-­‐based counterparts as without them, Australia’s global reputation as a premier dining destination would not be possible!" said Ms Hyland.
 
“I was delighted to be involved alongside judging panellists Lisa Margan and Sally Molines who both shared the same vision of the importance of investing back into our industry, we were all very impressed with the level of candidates we meet throughout this experience.”
 
The judges along with Hunter Culinary Association would like to congratulate all of the finalists and the three winners for their amazing efforts and wish them all the best in their future culinary endeavours.

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