Issue 2
Monday, 26 March 2018
Charles Darwin University
Cookery lecturer TY Lee with students in the commercial kitchen on Palmerston campus
Cookery lecturer TY Lee with students in the commercial kitchen on Palmerston campus

Colleagues honour top chef trainer

By Patrick Nelson

A highly regarded vocational chef, who once cooked barramundi for the Queen, is about to put the finishing touches to a teaching career that began at Charles Darwin University 28 years ago.

TY Lee has infused his expertise and passion for culinary excellence into the lives of thousands of students in the hospitality kitchens at Palmerston campus, including some who have won medals in national culinary competitions.

“I’ve enjoyed my time working at a university that has been kind to me,” said Mr Lee, who delivered lessons in a demountable building on Casuarina campus before the Tourism and Hospitality School was opened at Palmerston in 1994.

“The students have been important to me and the staff also have been very good. I will especially have fond memories of the people I worked with at Palmerston campus over many years.”

Mr Lee is also well respected for his contribution to the broader hospitality industry in the NT. He was the founding president of the Chef’s Association of the NT in 1995, and is a committee member and life member of the Australian Culinary Federation.

“We hosted the national apprentice competition at Palmerston campus in 2011 and we bought the Golden Chef’s Hat competition to the NT.” 

Mr Lee said he received a good grounding in hotel management at the luxury Connaught Hotel in London’s Mayfair district before moving to Darwin in 1980.

“I was on unemployment benefits when (former NT Administrator) Commodore Eric Johnston offered me a job at Government House.

“I worked there for six years, the highlight of which was to cook for the Queen, who was on her way to Brisbane for the Commonwealth Games. Among the dinner guests that night was the Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen, the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and the Chief Minister Paul Everingham.

“The entrée was a barramundi dish that the Administrator named the Barramundi Windsor. We prepared poached chicken breast for mains and a fresh tropical fruit salad with spun sugar for dessert.”

Mr Lee later owned and operated the French-speciality Leroy’s Restaurant in Parap and worked at the Sheraton in Mitchell Street before taking up a position with the Northern Territory University’s ITAFE section. 

In 2006 he was runner-up in the VET Teacher/Trainer category at the NT Training Awards and in 2007 he received the Vice-Chancellor’s award for his outstanding contribution to student learning. 

In 2011 he became the first Territorian to be awarded life membership of the Australian Culinary Federation and in 2014 he won the national AUSTAFE Legend Award.

Mr Lee said he planned to travel and to continue playing and coaching table tennis in retirement.

Colleagues gathered to bid Mr Lee a fond farewell at the Karawa Restaurant last week.