It might look like an episode of MasterChef, but these students are in it for more than an opportunity to bone up on their cooking skills.
The BSSC Kitchen Challenge is a personal development program, first and foremost.
Chef Rob Rees said each of the 11 participants came from different backgrounds.
Some were in Year 11, others in Year 12. A number of the participants are from NETschool Bendigo, which re-engaged young people who have left or are at risk of leaving mainstream schooling.
While some of the participants might have studied hospitality before, others have not.
They might only be in their second week, but Mr Rees said he had been impressed by the young people.
“Their skills base is really good,” he said.
So good, in fact, that he had to scrap the content he had planned for weeks four and five and start afresh.
The Kitchen Challenge sessions take place once a week, on Tuesdays.
“For these eight weeks, it’s not school,” Mr Rees said.
At the end of the challenge, the participants will cater for 60 guests at a dinner function.
The weekly sessions run from about 11am until 4.30pm, and the group determines when they are going to take breaks.
Part of the program is about how the young people respond to different leadership styles.
Mr Rees said the participants were exposed to an autocratic leadership style first – a style traditionally associated with chef training.
Then, they were split into three groups, given three recipes and told they had to prepare a certain number of dishes, by a certain deadline, and given the freedom to figure out how they were going to achieve it.
“We are treating them like adults,” Mr Rees said.
He was proud to say the participants figured out how to make the most of the task with the resources they had been given.
Not every group Mr Rees said he had encountered had met the brief so smoothly.
He said the aim of the program was to help the participants use their strengths to overcome their challenges.
“It’s the bleeding obvious a lot of the time, but when we are in our day-to-day routines, we forget it,” Mr Rees said.
The program was partially funded by the Big Give, a collective crowdfunding initiative introduced in central Victoria last year.