Where better to learn about food and wine than Melbourne?

By David Schout

Melbourne’s restaurant industry has played host to one William Angliss Institute student’s rapid rise through the ranks.

Working as a young pastry chef in his native Malaysia, Yeoh Xiu Chorng (preferred name “Chorng”) knew there was something missing. He was creating specialist desserts – something he loved – but he had other career goals.

“My aim was to make people happy,” he said.

“After a year in the kitchen I figured that wasn’t something I really wanted. I was making people happy but I couldn’t see them because I was at the back of house, secluded from the rest of the restaurant.”

Determined to secure a role at the front, he enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management at the William Angliss Institute. Less than a year into his course, the 22-year-old has surpassed all his expectations, securing a role at an exclusive Northcote restaurant and waiting on VIP tables at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

“Melbourne is great to understand food culture, and especially food and wine pairing, which is something you don’t get in Malaysia. It’s great that I can learn especially about wine."

“I didn’t know how to drink it (laughs). I thought it was pretty awful, and didn’t enjoy it. But after I came here I started trying white wines and learnt about their background, how it’s made and how it should taste. Now I love it, there’s so much to learn here.”

The CBD resident credits the course at William Angliss for giving him the confidence to not only inform patrons of menu items, but also converse in any other general chat.

“That’s where my skills are and food makes people happy. I love front of house since I’ve come here as it’s a lot of exposure to the customer, and lots of interaction between me and them.”

After exclusive Northcote restaurant Estelle by Scott Pickett ran a workshop at William Angliss, Chorng used the opportunity to ask the manager if they had any upcoming vacancies. Soon after, they posted a job, a role he secured in October.

“At first I started as a ‘glassie’ at the back of house, maintaining the bar and other small things. But after that, the manager trained me up and put me on the floor to see how the operation worked. From there I learned more and more, and now I’m a section waiter there,” he said.

Chorng said the chance to wait on VIP tables at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March was also a “great experience”.

He plans to study a bachelor of tourism and hospitality management when his course concludes this year, something he hadn’t planned before arriving in Melbourne. He has quickly fallen in love with the city.

‘The city is really diverse, more than I could think of. When I came here I saw lots of Asian people, people from South America and all other the place, which is great and something I didn’t expect. Food and beverage is all about meeting people from all over the world who have different stories.”

He was initially sceptical about whether he could recreate his favourite Malaysian dishes in this part of the world, but those fears were quickly allayed when he saw what Melbourne had to offer.

“It’s pretty good actually. I didn’t think I could get the spices here that makes the food authentic and taste like Malaysia, but you can. There are lots of Asian markets.”

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