What it’s like to work at Atelier Crenn and Hiša Franko

Photo: Michal Pechardo on Unsplash

Think of your wildest career dream, whether it’s meeting David Chang, working vintage with your favourite Jura winemaker or getting to know the inner workings of an Islay distillery. Didn’t think it could come true? Think again. Melbourne pastry chef Kay-Lene Tan (Tonka, Coda) won the prestigious Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship in 2018, and has spent the last six weeks staging as a pastry chef at three restaurants of her choice, including Atelier Crenn and Hiša Franko.

It sounds surreal, but if you’re aged 22-35 and work in any hospitality role anywhere in Australia, you’ve got a shot. Apply for the 2019 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship before 15 May and you could be on your way.

Read on for Kay-Lene’s reflections on what it’s like to meet your food heroes and learn from some of the best in the world.

How did reality compare to expectation at the restaurants you selected for your stage?
Hiša Franko exceeded my expectations. The team there is incredible, and even though I was only a stagier, I never felt like an outsider. The team was warm and welcoming, and made me feel like part of the family from my first day in the kitchen. Despite the intense hours that we worked, it never really felt like the days were that long because of how the team worked together.

What has been the most important lesson or skill you’ve taken away from this trip?
To always be humble, and to never forget how you started. I was having a conversation with Hiša Franko chef Aňa Ros, and she told me that you must be humble because that is the only way to success. Even with chef Dominique Crenn, she never made any of her team feel forgotten or unimportant. Despite their countless accolades, these two chefs are incredibly real people. The time I spent with them is truly priceless.

What are you looking forward to putting into practice once you get back to your job in Melbourne?
My team at Tonka has always been like a family to me, and being away for this long span of time has actually made me appreciate each and every one of them so much more. I get so busy sometimes that I forget to stop and talk to them, and I want to do that more often. I want to help each of them on their journey forward.

What’s it like meeting your food heroes?
I love when I meet my food heroes and they turn out to be such real people. It makes me remember my own motto in life which is to keep my eyes on the stars, and my feet on the ground. It’s so important to always remember where you came from.