FROM fresh-faced first year apprentice chef to culinary virtuoso, Luke Piccolo’s career has been powered by passion, perseverance and professionalism.
But like eggs in a soufflé, the 28-year-old Griffith restaurateur admits his career would not have risen so dramatically if not for TAFE NSW.
Just days out from attending as a finalist at the prestigious NSW/ACT Young Achiever Awards, Mr Piccolo revealed the crucial role TAFE NSW had played in his remarkable journey.
“TAFE NSW has been really good to me over the years,” Mr Piccolo said. “I credit TAFE as the reason I moved to Sydney and I credit it with helping open doors for me.
“It’s offered me so many opportunities – different events, different mentors, different training routes – and I don’t think young people appreciate where it can actually lead you.”
After cutting his teeth cooking bacon and eggs in the family’s Griffith café as a teen, Mr Piccolo started an apprenticeship and attended TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga weekly.
He automatically felt at home, discovering a cohort of like-minded students and teachers with high-level industry experience.
“The teachers were amazing and they took me under their wings,” Mr Piccolo said. “I’d always loved cooking but hadn’t had much experience with the commercial side of it and it was a real eye-opener.”
It was also a door-opener, with Mr Piccolo given the opportunity to be part of a TAFE NSW team in the famed 100 Mile Food Challenge. The team finished runner-up and Mr Piccolo was crowned top apprentice.
“There were lots of media and celebrity chefs there and I ended up being offered a job out of it at Pendilino in Sydney,” Mr Piccolo said.
In Sydney, he continued his TAFE NSW studies and continued pressing the flesh in the city’s buzzing restaurant scene, finding himself donning the apron at the two-hatted Pilu at Freshwater.
Europe beckoned and Mr Piccolo was soon working a stint in some of Italy’s leading restaurants.
In 2015, he returned to his spiritual home of Griffith, opening Limone Dining, a restaurant that has already snagged a swag of awards and gained a reputation as one of the finest in regional NSW.
His advice to aspiring young chefs?
“Grasp every opportunity that comes your way and keep building relationships and contacts,” he said.
TAFE NSW Relieving Deputy Regional General Manager and former Commercial Cookery teacher Sara Morley said Mr Piccolo’s story proved with talent and the right training, those opportunities were endless.
“Luke is an incredible talent with an incredible attitude and we are so proud to have played a part in his extraordinary success,” Ms Morley said.
“His story again proves the role TAFE NSW plays in training the industry leaders of tomorrow.”
The Griffith master chef could become Griffith’s first ever NSW/ACT Young Achiever Award recipient, after being nominated as a finalist for the prestigious small business achiever award category.
The annually presented awards are for outstanding achievements of people under the age of 30 in the state.
Luke, 28, said the nomination recognises the hard work of his team at Griffith restaurant Limone Dining, who are just at the start of their journey.