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Leela savours success as a junior sous chef

Training and skills case study

The kitchen is Leela Subramaniam’s happy place. As a kid, she often spent afternoons behind the counter cooking spaghetti bolognese with her father.

“We were always in there making something,” she recalls.  

Leela now works full time as a junior sous chef at a local restaurant, but her journey into the job didn’t start until a few years after she finished school.  

Leela Subramaniam case study

Midway through studying for a Bachelor of Laws and Commerce, her father suddenly passed away. Not feeling up to continuing with her studies, she withdrew from university and focused on working in hospitality.

“I immersed myself in my job where I was cooking in a café and discovered that I really enjoyed every element of it,” she explains.  

Surrounded by the buzz of a professional kitchen, Leela began to fall in love with food again.  

As someone with ADHD, she also found herself thriving in a dynamic fast-paced role, where there was never a dull moment.  

“I do think that being in a high-pressure environment suits me. I’m used to having a lot on my plate and being able to juggle all of that,” Leela says.

Eventually, Leela decided to take full advantage of the Free TAFE courses on offer and enrolled in a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery.

Living in the south-east suburbs of Melbourne, she chose to study at the Chisholm Institute’s Mornington Peninsula campus.  

Here, she found a supportive community among her peers and teachers, who played an important role in refining her culinary skills.

“My teachers were so supportive. I would always be in there practising and they would come to try what I had plated, then we would discuss if it was working or not,” Leela explains.  

The hard work paid off when she completed her apprenticeship and was promoted to junior sous chef – an extraordinary achievement for a recent graduate.

Leela was delighted to take out third place in the World Food Championships. She was also named Apprentice of the Year at the 2023 Victorian Training Awards, and runner up at the Australian Training Awards.  

Leela Subramaniam case study

In the future, Leela hopes to own and operate her own fine dining restaurant, and stage (train) at some of the best restaurants on offer.  

“After COVID, I think chefs are definitely one of the most in-demand jobs, so there’s lots of opportunity out there,” she says.  

Most of Leela’s time is now dedicated to cooking for guests seated at restaurant tables.  

But there’s a special place in her heart for her father's spaghetti bolognese – it’s the one recipe that will always be her favourite.