Asylum seeker master chefs

Community member Doreen serves up an entree.

By Casey Neill

A cooking course with a difference is putting the heat on businesses to step into the kitchen.

The Kitchen Challenge is a leadership, teamwork and personal development program delivered in a commercial kitchen.

Chef Rob Rees, known for helping celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to transform British school lunches, delivers the program and has done for seven years.

Participants explore and develop leadership skills, discover learning styles and face a range of challenges in a safe and supported space.

Mr Rees measures their wellbeing along the way.

They also learn a range of cooking skills, and ultimately produce a restaurant-quality lunch for 60 guests.

The Journal sat down for Kitchen Challenge cohort four’s final lunch at Birches Restaurant at Chisholm Institute in Dandenong on Friday 8 June.

The challengers served up gnocchi, scallops, honey-glazed lamb, mushroom ragout, gulab jamun and deconstructed jelly slice.

The group included six managers and leaders from white goods manufacturer Miele and six local asylum seekers.

“Within an hour of being in the room together they shared 100 per cent of their vulnerability with each other,” Mr Rees said.

“They became friends.”

Miele funded the eight-week course for all participants.

Together they shared a journey that pushed them out of their comfort zones to achieve personal and professional growth.

The City of Greater Dandenong received funding from VicHealth to run two more challenges this year, in August and October.

Local business leaders can get involved at no cost. They’re encouraged to nominate two leaders, one to participate in each challenge.

They can contact Jennifer Ebdon at City of Greater Dandenong via or 0438 510 840.

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