Moonee Ponds wife and mother of three Birgit Bortolotto recently won a gold medal for her culinary prowess at the Aus TAFE Culinary State Final, held at the Melbourne Fine Food Awards.
The Victoria University hospitality student outclassed apprentices from around the state at the competition last month. Among 90 competitors, Bortolotto received one of just five coveted gold awards.
Fine Food Australia is the country's leading food and hospitality event, celebrating excellence in the industry and providing opportunities for individuals, businesses and education to gain widespread recognition.
German-born Bortolotto used her cultural background as an influence to create a classic with a contemporary twist. Her winning dish of pork with candied apples, cranberries and horseradish cream impressed the judges with its technical precision, presentation, and - most importantly - taste.
Bortolotto describes the process of turning a traditional German meal into an award-winning dish: "I took what I describe as a 'housewifey' dish and pushed it to another level, through brainstorming, experimenting, and the guidance of my lecturer."
After working in insurance and as a systems analyst, and 17 years of motherhood, Bortolotto realised she needed a change. Knowing she wanted to be more than a great home cook, she discovered her true calling was to become a chef.
"I was never excited by my career before. Now that my children are older, it's my turn to pursue my real creative passion for cooking," she said.
Other Victoria University students - Tom Capell, Ana Martinez, Michael Wharton and Andrea Mack "" also took home medals in the apprentice category - three silvers and a bronze respectively.
Victoria University culinary trainer Peter Burgess praised the entrants for their efforts, and recognised the value in supporting such passionate pupils:
"We're so proud of these guys, particularly as they're competing against the state's best junior chefs and apprentices," he said. "As long as they're fostered in the right direction, people of any age or background can achieve anything."
Victoria University's staff and students are looking forward to the launch of the new hospitality teaching and learning facility VenU, at the Footscray Nicholson campus, on Friday 12 November.
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