Top Gong

Top Gong

The 2018 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship goes to Kay-lene Tan from Tonka and Coda

Following a four-month selection process, Kay-Lene was awarded the Scholarship on Monday 9 July at Food + Wine Victoria’s annual industry awards night.

Kay-Lene Tan, head pastry chef at Tonka and Coda restaurant in Melbourne, has been named the winner of the 2018 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship, supported by Melbourne Food + Wine festival.

Now in its fifth year, the prestigious Scholarship will provide Kay-Lene with a once-in-a-career opportunity to work across three countries in internationally acclaimed hospitality businesses top gong. Upon her return to Australia, Kay-Lene will continue to expand her industry experience over a yearlong mentorship with a local industry leader.

After an earlier career as a documentary filmmaker, Kay-Lene followed her dreams and trained to become a chef at the relatively late age of 25. Born in Melbourne and then raised with her Peranakan family in Singapore, her dessert creations are inspired by a diverse range of food cultures. Before returning to Melbourne in 2013, Kay-Lene worked for some of the world’s best chefs including Joël Robuchon and Andres Lara.

Hostplus, the national superannuation fund for the hospitality, tourism, recreation and sport industries, has supported the Scholarship since it launched in 2014.

Umberto Mecchi, chief marketing officer at Hostplus, says, “Throughout the judging process, Kay-Lene demonstrated a strong passion to drive and shape the future of the Australian hospitality top gong industry. Her technical skills as a pastry chef combined with her desire to become one of the industry’s next leaders made her stand out to the panel.”

Open to employees aged 22 to 35, applications for the 2018 Scholarship represented a diverse and highly skilled cross section of the industry, from sommeliers and coffee professionals, to chefs and food truck vendors.

Congratulations to the 2018 runner-up finalists:

  • Jenni Bryant, general manager of Market Lane Coffee, Victoria
  • Shelly McElroy, training and development advisor at Merivale, New South Wales

Shelly and Jenni will join Kay-Lene for an exclusive development day with Hostplus ambassador Shane Delia, from Maha and Biggie Smalls in Melbourne.

Previous winners of the Scholarship include Mark Bashinsky from Aria Brisbane, Damien Neylon from Brae, Birregurra, and Elika Rowell of Square One Roasters, Melbourne.

The 2017 winner, Caitlyn Rees from Fred’s in Sydney, is due to start her scholarship experience, joining the teams at Eric Bordelet Ciderie in Normandy, Relae in Copenhagen, and Blue Hill Stone Barns in New York.

Food + Wine Victoria will now work with Kay-Lene to organise her global travel and work experience and partner her with a local mentor.


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