Twin brothers Samuel and Luke Bourke are two success stories behind Rockpool Dining Group’s support of the National Indigenous Culinary Institute.
Now, at just 22 years of age, the young men are working at two of Sydney’s top fine-dining restaurants: Luke at Rockpool Bar & Grill and Samuel at Rosetta Ristorante.
Born and raised in Sydney’s western suburbs, the brothers attended high school at St Dominic’s College, Penrith. From there the budding young cooks were encouraged to apply to the Institute, a training and mentoring program for aspiring Indigenous chefs.
They were both granted places on the program in 2016 and undertook a two-week pre-apprenticeship training course, followed by three days of work experience in the kitchen of Fratelli Fresh, Macquarie Street. From there they started an apprenticeship with Rockpool Bar & Grill.
The brothers worked in different sections of the Rockpool Bar & Grill kitchen, from the larder to the grill, until each found his niche. Samuel’s pasta-making talents shone so much that upon completion of his apprenticeship he was offered a full-time position at Rosetta, where he’s been working as Junior Sous Chef. Luke’s love of fresh produce, on the other hand, saw him stay on at Rockpool Bar & Grill where he has progressed to Chef De Partie.
“I remember being really overwhelmed when I started at Rockpool Bar & Grill, but working for the Group, and working with Neil Perry, has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” says Samuel.
Samuel and Luke have learned a lot since they started with Rockpool Dining Group, but their confidence working as a part of a team is what they value the most.
“Before I started I was only used to working with Samuel, but working with other people is so motivating,” says Luke. “It feels really good coming in to work, and I’m proud to be able to say I work at Rockpool Bar & Grill.”
Following in their footsteps
Lizzie Lorente and Jayde Harris are now following in the brothers’ footsteps.
Lizzie is Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney’s youngest apprentice chef, at just 17 years of age. She was brought up in Sydney’s south-eastern suburb of Hurstville and contacted the Institute because hospitality subjects were not on offer at her high school.
“I didn’t expect to be learning so much so quickly,” Lizzie says, just six months into her apprenticeship. “I thought I was going to be chopping carrots and peeling potatoes when I first started, but I’m treated like an adult and given the responsibility of creating entire dishes.”
Lizzie’s precision and skill stands out in her current section of the kitchen, sashimi.
“With sashimi, everything needs to be perfect,” she says. “Each piece of fish must be cut quite precisely and weigh a certain amount. It’s a really satisfying experience being able to look after this section entirely on my own.”
Lizzie will train at Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney for three years, after which she has a guaranteed offer of employment.
“I’m really proud to be a part of the Rockpool Dining Group team,” she says. “I couldn’t think of a better place to start my career.”
Jayde Harris can’t imagine doing anything other than cooking. The 22-year-old grew up in Newcastle and moved to Sydney in 2018 to pursue a career as a chef.
Jayde’s brother, a talented chef at Uluru’s famed Longitude 131 restaurant, inspired her to apply to the same training and mentoring program he had graduated from at the Institute.
In the four months that Jayde has been with the Group, she believes her kitchen and life skills have grown exponentially.
“I’m out on my own, I’m earning my own money, I’m paying my own bills and I’m learning new things every day,” she says.
“Working with Rockpool Dining Group has been an incredible experience so far. I can’t wait to see where this opportunity takes me in the future.”
Native flavours inspire fresh support
Rockpool Dining Group’s support of the Institute has recently taken another leap forward. On Wednesday, 1 August the Group announced that all 11 Burger Projects across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane would donate $1 from the Outback limited-edition burger ($12.90) to the Institute until Sunday, 30 September.
This one-of-a-kind burger comprises of a Cape Grim beef pattie, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, roasted, sliced and marinated beetroot and Burger Project’s secret sauce. This classic Australian combination of flavours is given a native boost with a generous drizzle of lemon myrtle mayonnaise.
In addition, Black Label by Burger Project in Sydney will make an ongoing contribution to the Institute by donating $1 from every Native burger ($17) sold from Wednesday, 1 August.
The Native burger heroes indigenous Australian ingredients, including locally-sourced Paroo kangaroo, which is blended with Cape Grim beef. The pattie is accompanied with lightly pickled beetroot, lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese. It is drizzled with lemon myrtle mayonnaise and finished with spiced quandong, a native Australian peach, and bush tomato sauce.
The group’s Culinary Director Neil Perry believes the Burger Project initiative is another valuable way to support the apprenticeship program.
“We’ve had the privilege of training these talented, ambitious apprentices, who are invaluable employees of the group,” Mr Perry said. “The Institute provides a vital platform for Indigenous chefs to begin fulfilling careers, and we’re proud to support the Institute in every way we can.”
National Indigenous Culinary Institute General Manager Michael Ingrey is thrilled to join forces with Burger Project, and believes the fundraising initiative will play a vital role in the training of these young Indigenous chefs.
“The money raised will provide ongoing invaluable support to Indigenous trainees throughout their apprenticeship, including mentoring, counselling and specialist skills training,” Mr Ingrey said.