There were plenty of happy diners at the Ulumbarra Theatre on Wednesday evening as participants in the inaugural BSSC Kitchen Challenge prepared a three-course dinner and canapes for more than 40 guests.

Local food and wine industry identities, along with college staff and parents, celebrated the huge challenges overcome by our young chefs over their eight-week journey.

Creator of the Kitchen Challenge, Rob Rees, said the challenge is as much about leadership, teamwork and personal growth as it is about food.

“These young people really stepped into the challenge,” Rob Said. “By the end of the eight weeks we’ve seen better listening, better understanding of their own emotional intelligence, and a real sense of the impact they can have on others.

“At the dinner on Wednesday night they looked each other in the eye and really supported each other through the job at hand. We hope that sort of collaboration and problem solving flows on to the rest of their studies here at BSSC and to their home life as well.”

Rob praised the participants for their willingness to continually step out of their comfort zones and face their fears head-on. He described the BSSC students as the most extraordinary group of young people he’s worked with over the many years of the Kitchen Challenge.

One of those young people was Stephanie Poynter, who described the Kitchen Challenge as “like being pushed into the deep end when you haven’t quite learnt to swim”.

“It was daunting, but it taught me so much about myself,” she said. “It’s given me the confidence to go out and speak to people about food, to feel like I can contribute to the team… I even spoke on live radio. I would never have done those things before.”

The BSSC Kitchen Challenge has had great support from the Central Victorian community. We thank all those producers, suppliers and local business who got behind this life-changing initiative: Sonia and Nick Anthony at Masons of Bendigo – Mandurang Valley Wines – Carlo Barry – James Clee from Meats on Brooke Street – Cathy Steele from Bendigo Foodshare – Wayne Kelly from Feed of Fish Bendigo.

The BSSC Kitchen Challenge was the flagship for the program in Australia.