Becoming a top chef takes passion, skills and knowledge.

Over recent years, the Australian hospitality industry has moved significantly as the baby-boomer generation begin to head towards retirement. What this situation has created is the opportunity for both millennials and other generations to fill the gaps – as long as they have the right skills and knowledge to become a true asset in the industry.

At the heart of the learning environment at Kenvale College is Andrew Christie, one of our talented and award winning lecturers who works every week with some of the best students in the country. With an extensive career in the hospitality industry, we recently sat down with Andrew to talk about his past and present as well as the future of the sector. Read on to find out more about Andrew.

Kenvale College's Andrew Christie has an extensive career history.Kenvale College's Andrew Christie is responsible for the Kenvale restaurant and supervises and collaborates with students to develop menus.

Learning and applying his trade

During his high school years, Andrew first found his passion for the hospitality industry, launching into an apprenticeship in Tasmania in 1979. Over the next decade, Andrew moved between Tasmania and Queensland, working in various establishments and fine-tuning his cooking skills and knowledge of food. In 1990, Andrew moved to Sydney as his career took to the skies.

After becoming an executive chef at a number of one hatted restaurants in Sydney, he was given the honour to be the executive chef at the International Broadcast Centre for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. This required Andrew to showcase all his organisational talents and cooking skills to a wide audience, while supervising a large team of chefs. As with most Olympic Games experiences, Andrew found himself thinking about how he could give back to the industry – leading him into the world of teaching.

"In 2002, I got a qualification that allowed me to train and assess students, I also started working at TAFE and was a cofounder of Evolution Hospitality Institute and I also began to work at a number of private colleges on the side," Andrew explained.

Andrew has a real passion for teaching students, but remains grounded in his career. As well as his Kenvale College work, Andrew is busy with other catering and cooking projects, and even has time to visit his family's restaurants in Tasmania over the semester break. It's fair to say that Andrew is a busy man, but with a real drive for the hospitality industry and a passion for cooking, he's an asset that continues to inspire both students and his peers.

"What makes me proud is when I see those people that I've taught, assisted or worked with in the past succeed or to go onto bigger and better things. It is all about helping people self-improve and that's what makes it special for me," Andrew said.

"What makes me proud is when I see those people that I've taught, assisted or worked with in the past succeed."

Well-deserved award

For Andrew, his job isn't about the accolades, but recently he was named a Cookery Teacher/Trainer of the Year 2016 by the Tourism, Hospitality & Catering Institute of Australia (THCI). Andrew's also received the President's award, the overall winner for all categories – a true marker of his great presence in the sector.

Andrew was shoulder-tapped by peers to apply for the first recognition, but had to submit a comprehensive application to the THCI Commitee to be considered. As well as explaining his industry experience and how his industry currency benefits students, Andrew's application covered his thoughts on what makes a great teacher in the industry and how this is important moving forward.

"From an industry perspective, this award and recognition is certainly a great achievement," Andrew said.

While Andrew is honoured by the recent awards, his focus remains on the students of Kenvale College. Of course, working with the next generation of talent has given Andrew insight on what needs to happen to keep the industry moving in the right direction.

Life at Kenvale College

Kenvale College prides itself on being a very supportive environment for students. Andrew believes that regardless of the benefits for himself or what the working environment is, there is a positive atmosphere for students to grow and learn.

"This means that everything that students do and learn, both inside and outside the college, is relative to what they are studying and future career," he said.

"You can certainly tell when you meet someone who is working in the industry, but not actively studying."

Of course, Andrew enjoys interacting with Kenvale students the most – an "ambitious" and "talented" group who are willing to listen, learn and understand where their strengths and weakness lie. According to Andrew, even students who may not start in the industry with an enthusiastic mindset, they get caught up in the hype of classes and work experience and really start to explore their role in this diverse industry – something he is proud to admit.

What makes a great hospitality career?

Andrew with students he inspires in Kenvale Kitchen.Andrew with students he inspires in Kenvale Kitchen.

As mentioned earlier, Andrew want students to do well. However, students themselves have to be open to new experiences and bring their own passion for hospitality. These are the true attributes that Andrew looks for in his star students.

"It comes down to whether they are working in the industry and how enthusiastic about doing that. Studying becomes much easier once you are in the vocation."

"You can't teach attitude. That's something we expect from the start."

Andrew also believes in understanding your position in the hospitality sector and working towards that niche. While it is good to work towards the best you can be, not everyone can be an executive chef at a hatted restaurant.

Andrew uses the example of fine dining. Someone might not want to work in these situations, but the skills and knowledge that they learn at Kenvale College can be applied to many other areas such as catering, cafes, hospitals and other hospitality areas.

With the ongoing skill shortages in the hospitality industry, it is becoming more important than ever for students to explore different areas and pursue something that they are passionate about.

"We really need to be able to teach the right skills for people to stay in the industry for the long term." 

Thinking about a career in cooking?

All students that Andrew works with at Kenvale College are special and bring something different to the environment. If you believe that this industry is right for your future, Andrew has some simple advice – understand your end goal.

"The advice that I've always given people is to think long and hard about your decision. If you join the industry, you have the chance to travel the world with it, open up your own restaurant or cafe, but there are pressure points and understanding this is key.

Around the world, the hospitality industry is moving through a period of skill shortages. As such, all students that are trained and skilled become vital assets – the future of the sector.

"Everyone is different, but you want to join the industry for the right reasons," Andrew notes.

"Once you do this, the world is your oyster, there is so many cool things to do. Your family becomes the people you work with."

Joining Kenvale College

Andrew is keen to continue to inspire students at Kenvale College and across the wider industry. With his level of knowledge and passion, Andrew is a valuable part of our team.

If you want to learn more about our hospitality and cooking courses, feel free to reach out to our support services today. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thank you for inviting us – we really did appreciate it. I must say I was really impressed by the Briar Ridge team – one of them (… Aiden) did a really great job explaining who they were, what they were about etc., and really took the time to give us the background on the person behind it all (Gwyn Olsen). He’d clearly immersed himself in the project, and I think she’d have been really pleased if she’d seen that. Happy to reach out and tell her so if you think it would help pave the way for future events.

- Anonymous, Winefest Guest 2015

I just wanted to express thanks and congratulations to all at Kenvale for the magnificent lunch provided on Thursday.

I have been to many hatted restaurants this year and can honestly say that they would have struggled to produce such fantastic dishes.

The lunch was a credit to your students and your staff.  It would be a privilege to enjoy another visit next year.

Best wishes to your graduating students for success in their career and to your staff to continue to guide students to reach such a high standard.

- Anonymous public guest at Kenvale Restaurant 2015

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