The high school giving hospitality students real-world experience

31/07/19 — Gemma McManus

Chef Kees van der Laan

Hamish George, Gemma McManus, Chef Kees van der Laan

On Friday 24th May, we at Didasko were lucky enough to attend the Victorian Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge hosted at St John’s Regional College.

While we were looking forward to seeing the Hospitality and Cookery students compete using the skills they have developed, we did not anticipate the pleasure of meeting Chef Kees.

Chef Kees van der Laan is the Hospitality and Food Technology Leader at St John’s Regional College. Upon meeting him, it was clear that Kees was extremely passionate about his area of expertise and ensuring the best for his students.

This was evidenced by the enthusiasm in which Kees showed us around the kitchen, restaurant, Patisserie/Bakery kitchen and future cafe locations.

Visiting St John’s Regional College, we were particularly impressed with the Graduates’ Restaurant. Due to his years working as a chef, Kees believes that hands-on experience is an important part of learning. The Graduates’ restaurant, on the school’s campus, is where Year 11 and 12 Hospitality and Kitchen Operations students gain real-world experience. These students are guided by St John’s hospitality team, Chef Kees, Chef Karla and the Restaurant Manager Ms Sally Taylor. This real-world experience is used in conjunction with the theory found in Didasko’s online content to create a blended learning experience.

As a result of this hands-on experience and St John’s connection with the local community, graduates are highly sought after for traineeships and jobs.

The Graduate’s Restaurant is one of the few places in Victoria that is licenced for under 18-year-olds to be able to serve alcohol, with the college having two qualified trainers delivering RSAs.

Students also put their barista skills into practice, making coffee for teachers and community members who often pay a little extra as the money collected from the coffee goes towards the school’s charity efforts in Cambodia.

Patisserie students also have the advantage of getting a head start on completing some of their units at St John's before going on to complete their Patisserie qualification at TAFE.

Year 9 students don’t have to wait to join in on the fun as they have the opportunity to participate in the College Cafe program for a two week period. This two week period allows students to apply the knowledge that they have learnt in their Math, Health, Science, English, Commerce and Food and Information Technology subjects.

The St John’s staff will also be hosting the ‘Teen Chef’ competition in August, which is open to students from secondary schools with a keen interest in cookery or baking. Congratulations to the team from Berwick College for winning the Victorian Culinary Challenge!

If you are engaging your VET students in creative ways, please let us know your story at gemma.mcmanus@didasko.com