From deferring university to cooking for the Prime Minister

Alex Rahme found that by taking a risk and deferring uni, she wound up with the job of her dreams – a chef. After studying at William Blue, she found herself cooking alongside celebrity chefs for the Prime Minister.

Alex studied an Advanced Diploma of Hospitality majoring in Commercial Cookery at William Blue and graduated in August 2014.

This is her story.


The Dream

My dream is to open my own business and combine two of my greatest passions – food and nutrition.

I’d love to create menus and do demonstrations for those who have a personal trainer so I can teach people how to cook healthy and nutritious food.

I’m interested in nutrition because throughout year 12 I discovered that I had many allergies. My naturopath put me on a high-protein diet, cutting out all processed foods and recommended that I start to do weight training. My health improved dramatically and my body adapted well to this change of lifestyle. I now train three-four times a week. At times this is hard because of the long hours required when working as a chef but I make it work nonetheless! Health and nutrition are really important to me and I’m passionate about teaching others how to achieve a healthy lifestyle. 

The Hurdle

After high school, I had finished a full-time performing arts course and was looking for something to fill my time. High schools (in general) strongly encourage students to go to uni so I thought I had no choice because that was what everyone else was doing – I felt I had to follow the norm and conform to the societal expectation of going to university. As soon as I got there I felt completely lost. My only objective was to get through it and obtain a degree. There were no life-long goals attached as I didn’t know what I wanted to do with rest of my life. I chose international studies because it sounded interesting and I wanted to learn a language. Nothing else appealed to me. I couldn’t get into anything higher because my ATAR was 84. Nutrition, which is what I really wanted to study, required an ATAR of 96.

I made the decision to defer to keep my options open, but I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t go back because it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel like myself at uni. I wasn’t expressing my creative ability. That made me feel underwhelmed and lost. I talked to my parents and they pushed me to defer and do something that I really liked. They supported my decision 100%. 

The Light

During uni I was working part time at a café. A chef that I was working with really showed me my passion for cooking. When he fired the majority of the kitchen staff except for me, I felt appreciated and excited, as though I had a new opportunity. He told me I was very capable in the kitchen and I had the most potential so he wanted to harness that and grow his business.

He started teaching me one-on-one and in every shift my passion flourished. I was cooking breakfasts and simple food, like sandwiches, wraps, burgers, salads and pizzas, and I loved creating these dishes and making them look beautiful.

I fell in love with the energy of the kitchen and making people happy, providing them with beautiful food. This was incredibly fulfilling and a huge part of why I’m so passionate about having a career in hospitality.

The Solution

I found out about William Blue through a friend, they said the college had a great reputation and would lead me to many different opportunities.

I rang William Blue and asked a few questions about starting dates and what the course entailed, and then I enrolled. I felt nervous because I wasn’t 100% sure about it and I didn’t have enough knowledge of the industry to make a full judgement. All I had done was work in a café. But studying at Willliam Blue is such an amazing experience and I know I’ve made the right decision.

The Stepping Stone

My first big opportunity came about through William Blue, as ARIA were recruiting new staff and one of the chefs came to the college and spoke. I was nervous because it was such a huge opportunity. It would be a big step in the right direction.

I had my trial shift and as a result they decided to employee me.

My favourite moment was when I was chosen to work with Matt Moran… last week I worked with him again serving the Prime Minister.

I started in the kitchen as a casual cook. Every shift I learnt new techniques and skills and was constantly challenged to stretch my ability. My favourite moment was when I was chosen to work one-on-one with Matt Moran our Executive Chef. I worked with him multiple times after this, all of which were phenomenal experiences. He is an inspiring leader and teacher.  I even worked with him serving the Prime Minister at Kirribilli House. I felt really privileged to be working at that function. 

The Job

Also William Blue help you find a job for your work placement and they have so many connections both here and internationally (ARIA catering being just one example). William Blue was really supportive throughout the entire process.

I was given the opportunity to work in a Michelin Restaurant as part of my work placement. Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is located in the town of Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy. I really pushed for a position in the restaurant of this hotel as I wanted to be challenged on more than one front. Not knowing much Italian was a primary obstacle that I managed to tackle during my three month stay.

I was placed in the pastry kitchen and also worked in-depth on cold larder and pasta.

The Executive Chef was impressed with my work and asked me to create a few canapes that he might introduce to his menu. He also offered me a place in his kitchen if I ever wanted to work in Italy again.

I achieved so much throughout my work placement, it’s still hard to come to terms with all the opportunities I was given.

Returning from Italy my plan was to continue working casually with Morsul at ARIA Catering for the rest of the year. I received a call from an ex Chef, asking me if I was interest working full time as a Chef De Partie in the restaurant of The Art Gallery of NSW. I was aware that Morsul had added this restaurant to their expansion and couldn’t turn down such an opportunity, and enjoyed every minute of it. 

And just last week, I accepted a job offer in Davos, Switzerland as Sous Chef in an exclusive chalet called Tivoli Lodge. I'll be working with a chef that I previously worked with at ARIA Catering! My passion is taking me all over the world! 

The Advice

I’m so glad I deferred my degree at University as it was the best decision of my life. It’s led me to explore bigger and better passions and opportunities doing what I love. It took courage for me to defer but sometimes it’s worth taking a leap of faith and following your intuition.

If someone was considering dropping out of university, I’d tell them to figure out what their passions are and go from there – and to not be scared of dropping out because you can go back any time if that’s what you choose to do.

The best thing about studying at William Blue is the relationship I have with all of my teachers. It’s more of a close knit family than what I experienced at uni, when you don’t even know who your lecturer is.

Don’t be scared to drop out or defer. So many people are going to colleges now, and it gives you so many benefits like industry connections and work placement opportunities before you even graduate.

Life is too short to not follow your passion and if you take a leap of faith, amazing things can happen.


Hospitality course information

Topics: THINK Hospitality, Success Stories

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