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Chefs cook up taste of harmony

By Leanne Coleman

Commercial cookery and bakery lecturer Jason Wilkes is one of 20 “A Taste of Harmony 2014” Chef Ambassadors from around Australia Commercial cookery and bakery lecturer Jason Wilkes is one of 20 “A Taste of Harmony 2014” Chef Ambassadors from around Australia

Charles Darwin University’s commercial cookery training kitchen became a global melting pot last month as students blended a variety of flavours to celebrate multiculturalism in the workplace.

Commercial cookery and bakery lecturer Jason Wilkes was one of 20 “A Taste of Harmony 2014” Chef Ambassadors from around Australia who held events to celebrate food and cultural diversity.

Mr Wilkes and his cookery students created a smorgasbord of culinary delights from their cultural heritage at an event at Karawa training restaurant, CDU Palmerston campus.

“My workplace is like a larder in the world kitchen,” Mr Wilkes said. “We have Indian, Chinese Malaysian, South Korean, East Timorese, English, South African, Scottish and a sprinkle of Australian born people in my small team of 13.

“With these backgrounds comes an amazing array of food. The wonderful thing about such diverse backgrounds is the experience and knowledge that is contributed by each individual who makes the collective team such a strong and tight-knit, family-like unit.”

A fifth generation Australian born in Gladstone, Central Queensland, Mr Wilkes began his chef apprenticeship when he was 16 years old in Brisbane. He later travelled around Australia on a quest to improve his culinary knowledge and skills.

“Growing up in Central Queensland in the 1970s, I remember having a multicultural group of friends,” he said. “The circle of friends I had at an early age was all inclusive regardless of the colour of your skin or where you were from.

“Being part of my friends’ lives included being in their homes with their families and sitting down to simple meals of rice or stew. I was often an outsider to their culture but was always accepted into their household; at times this was very humbling.”   

Mr Wilkes said as a chef he loved all types of food and cuisine, and living and working in Darwin there was an eclectic mix of cultures. “Darwin is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines with the most amazing ingredients,” he said. “This cross pollination of cultural diversity is everywhere and has unassuming influences on everyone who lives here.”

He said he was proud to support Taste of Harmony, which aimed to bring people together to understand and celebrate cultural diversity. “The simple concept of bringing people together to share a meal provides a great opportunity for conversation which can then lead to a greater understanding.”

Taste of Harmony events were held around Australia from March 17 to 23. Other Chef Ambassadors included Guy Grossi, Miguel Maestre, Ed Halmagyi, and several past MasterChef Australia contestants.