MEDIA UPDATE  |   10 July 2018

Kay-Lene Tan of Tonka and Coda awarded

2018 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship


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


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. Upon her return to Australia, Kay-Lene will continue to expand her industry experience over a year-long 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:

 “Hostplus is extremely proud to support the hospitality industry and the Scholarship provides long-term opportunities for the rising stars across Australia.

“Throughout the judging process, Kay-lene demonstrated a strong passion to drive and shape the future of the Australian hospitality 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,” continued Mecchi.

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.


The 2018 runner-up finalists were:

  • Jenni Bryant (VIC), general manager of Market Lane Coffee
  • Shelly McElroy (NSW), training and development advisor at Merivale

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 Sydney’s Fred’s is due to start her Scholarship experience joining the teams at Eric Bordelet Ciderie in Normandy, Relae in Copenhagen, Blue Hill Stone Barns in New York


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

Instagram: melbfoodandwine
Facebook: MelbourneFoodandWineFestival


Scholarship Judging Panel
The judging panel for the applications featured leaders from across the hospitality industry:

  • Gail Donovan, restaurateur, Donovans, Melbourne;
  • Umberto Mecchi, chief marketing officer at Hostplus;
  • Jo-Ann Moody, gastronomy manager, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival;
  • Rafael Rashid, founder and owner of Beat Box Kitchen, Taco Truck, and All Day Donuts;
  • Matteo Pignatelli, owner and operator of Matteo’s restaurant in Melbourne; and
  • Fleur Studd, owner of Melbourne Coffee Merchants and co-founder of Market Lane Coffee.


Hostplus is the national superannuation fund for those that live and love Australian hospitality, tourism, recreation and sport. The Australian Hotels Association and United Voice jointly established the fund in 1987. Hostplus is one of the largest in the country with over one million members, 168,000 employers and $30 billion in funds under management.


Food + Wine Victoria

With the approval and strong support of the Victorian Government, Food + Wine Victoria has expanded its remit beyond the highly successful Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The not-for-profit organisation also delivers a year-round program that will support the Victorian food and wine industries through collaboration with the many stakeholders who contribute to the multimillion-dollar industry.


Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) presented by Bank of Melbourne is Australia’s internationally acclaimed celebration of food and wine. Now approaching its 27th year in 2019, MFWF gathers more than 280 events across Victoria.

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