Event of the Week: 2013 Queensland JSS Culinary Challenge Fundraising Dinner


Fundraiser Promotes Student Involvement in Competitive Cooking

If you were a foodie attending the 2013 Queensland Junior Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge Fundraising Dinner (JSSCC), then you were treated to immense talent and skill from Year 10 students.

The fundraiser dinner, which was held 29th July at Futures Restaurant at the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE-Toowoomba, featured a menu developed and prepared by the students under the mentoring of volunteer chefs. The production of the menu by the students highlighted the main reason behind the fundraiser, which is to encourage students to participate in the culinary challenge.

According to Gloria Ridley, a JSSCC partnership broker for Darling Downs, the Junior Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge is a competition for Year 10 Home Economics/Hospitality students and consists of a series of events and activities over a four month period. The culmination of the challenge is the regional final, which determines the top two teams to compete in the Queensland State Final, held at the Brisbane Show (the EKKA).

To get to the final, the students must first get past the Cookery Competition. The Cookery Competition gives students a chance to design and develop a competition dish, with the help of their chef mentor, using required ingredients to compete against industry culinary standards by qualified chef judges, courtesy of the Australian Culinary Federation (ACF). Schools can enter a maximum of two teams of two students, and each region holds their own final to determine the top two teams to compete in the Final.

The ACF, in conjunction with the Partnership Broker program, nominates a coordinator for each region to oversee the JSSCC. In a lot of cases, the Partnership Broker will act as a liaison between the schools and the ACF. They also work with the ACF coordinator to identify possible sponsors, develop relationships with schools, and work with TAFE colleges.  Each school will also work with an industry partner, such as prestigious hotels, golf clubs, restaurants and more. Schools are encouraged to find their own industry partner for the challenge, but if a school needs help, the ACF and the Partnership Broker program will offer assistance. Ms. Ridley acts a partnership broker from The Smith Family, a children’s charity supporting disadvantaged Australians and their education.

Ms. Ridley said that word about the fundraising dinner was released to the public through “direct contact with schools, VET coordinators, local industry such as clubs, restaurants; and institutions such as TAFE.”

“Media releases were used to publicise specific events; articles printed in newsletters, schools through Education Queensland, DETE and local newspapers (Southern Downs, Kingaroy; Toowoomba etc.) WIN Television came on board for our regional finals with the footage shown on local television,” she said.

“Toowoomba and the Darling Downs are known for supporting students in any activity, so we had a good response to selling tickets,” said Ms. Ridley.  “One of our sponsors agreed to arrange an auction, which was awesome.   After everything was paid, we made a profit of around $1,200.00 which will be used to support students in regional areas to take part in the competition.”

The highlights of the night were the students themselves, said Ms. Ridley. “The best part was the menu the students came up with,” she said. “The end product was exceptionally well received.  The only surprise was the number of people who ‘turned’ up without buying a ticket…We did some shuffling around and managed to accommodate everyone.”

The event was a big feat for the students, who, of course, had to serve everyone. “Students cooking two main courses for more than 100 people are a big ask of 15 year old young people,” said Ms. Ridley. “But we managed it, and they were fantastic.   Also, we had a fantastic MC – a school teacher – who managed to keep everything on track.”

If you’re planning a similar event, Ms. Ridley has some advice to give. “Don’t rely on what people say they are going to do…make sure you have a backup plan.  When events are planned with volunteers, it is difficult to get them to work to your time lines.”

You can learn more about the JSSCC at the ACF website and the JSSCC’s Facebook page. You can learn more about The Smith Family by visiting the organisation’s website.

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