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Alumna cooks for Masterchef Australia judges

le cordon bleu alumnaSonia Manoj Patil was thrilled to cook for the judges of Masterchef Australia at experiential restaurant Enter Via Laundry where she works as chef. Our alumna shares her experiences working at award-winning fine-dining Melbourne restaurant Attica and her insights on the hospitality industry.


What inspires you about the culinary arts industry?

What excites me is how I can cook or learn something new every single day, and never feel bored. It is an industry run by people, for people, and while people still want to eat and socialise, there will be no end of opportunities to pursue.

 What attracted you to Le Cordon Bleu Australia?

I heard about Le Cordon Bleu from a close friend in my early school days, and we planned to enrol in the Paris Institute. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Hotel Administration degree in Goa, I did a lot of research and chose an Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management (Cuisine) from Le Cordon Bleu Melbourne which I felt would broaden my horizons, allowing me to experience life and food outside India, and to learn from the very best in the field.


What achievements are you most proud of?

In 2019, I was awarded an Australian Government Vocational Education and Training (VET) Scholarship for International Students to fund my studies at Le Cordon Bleu Australia. It was an absolute honour to receive this meritorious scholarship, which took away any financial burden I may have had for the duration of my entire course and which allowed me to be independent.

The second achievement I am proud of is a personal one - I developed, planned, prepared and executed meals for all the staff members at Attica. On my last day, the head chef told me that my standard of staff meals was equal to what the senior chefs had been preparing. That made all the effort instantly worth it.

As a chef at Enter Via Laundry, I was given the opportunity to run the kitchen service and cook for none other than Matt Preston himself. He posted a picture of us on his Instagram handle, with a lot of positive comments for me, which made my day. In January 2020, at Enter Via Laundry, I cooked for and served the executive producers, directors and new judges of Masterchef Australia, Jock, Melissa and Andy. 

Enter Via Laundry was then featured on Masterchef Australia, and my boss allowed me to prepare the Enter Via Laundry Signature dish for the shoot at 6am, while being watched by an eagle-eyed chef, making it my very own pressure test.  I mingled with the whole crew on set, spoke a lot to the judges, met all my favourite contestants and asked them all the questions I had gathered over the years. It was my favourite experience of all time.

What did you enjoy most about your study at LCBA?

Completing my business plan, which was a success and highly appreciated by my professors. It gave me great insight into what goes into starting up your own business, and instilled in me a sense of confidence and belief. The study trips and industry visits organized by Le Cordon Bleu, as well as Masterclasses by well-known industry chefs, were the highlights of my study. I am constantly in contact with all my professors via social media and they have become my support system, which is something I am extremely grateful for.

What did you love about studying in Australia?

Studying, working and living independently in Australia gave me a lot of exposure to global cuisines, international palates, and helped me learn more about what being a chef entailed. What I loved most about studying here is the multiculturalism, because it gave me a chance to interact with students from all over the world, allowing me to form connections and relationships that span continents.


Where have you worked?

During my studies, I completed my (WIL) industry placement at Attica, in Melbourne, where I learnt precision and an eye-for-detail, dipped my toes into the world of creating fine-dining food, worked under chefs who have talent beyond measure, and learnt the flavour profiles and applications of a lot of indigenous/native Australian ingredients.

I worked at a couple of restaurants in between to gain fryer, larder, café and function catering experience, and for the past year have been working at Enter Via Laundry, which is a unique dining experience run by Helly Raichura, serving lesser known regional Indian dishes amplified with native Australian ingredients.


What are your long-term goals?

In the next 5-10 years I plan to open a restaurant of my own, featuring Goan cuisine, with a constantly changing seasonal menu, a focus on sustainability using locally sourced produce while creating an informative dining experience highlighted with immersive aspects of culture and history.

I believe regional Indian food is so undiscovered and underrated. The globalised Indian cuisine is not Indian at all, it is a misrepresentation of our culture. I value the importance of authenticity, knowledge of ancient cooking techniques, food knowledge passed down through the family; and as a millennial, try to find the roots of my heritage and share the knowledge. I have an Instagram handle (feed_the_hunger) where I post informative food content very frequently.

Tell us about your cultural background

I am Indian, and was born and brought up in the stunning coastal state, Goa. My mother is from Karnataka and my father is from Maharashtra. Due to this confluence of cultures, I grew up eating a variety of food, for which I did not have as much appreciation back then, as I have now. The cuisine and culture of Goa is distinctly different from the rest of India. Having been a Portuguese colony in earlier times, the food and architecture, as well as lifestyle, have been heavily influenced.

Goan cuisine is all about freshly caught seafood, red meat, coconut, aromatic and bold spice pastes, local breads, fermented alcoholic beverages and vinegars unique to the state, Portuguese influenced dishes, not-so-sweet but heavenly desserts and a lot of festive food. Bringing Goan food to Australia is something I strive to achieve, and from feeding all the Attica staff Goan themed extravagant buffet style staff meals, to pushing to feature Goan dishes on the Enter Via Laundry menu (Bebinca, Perad), I am determined to not leave any stone unturned.


What career challenges have you overcome?

In India, I faced challenges when I first decided that I wanted to pursue a career as a chef. I was told that girls did not belong in professional kitchens due to the amount of labour involved and the late hours. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead with it, seeking internship opportunities to test myself out in a professional kitchen environment. I looked forward to working in a team where I felt safe, and my confidence dropped significantly from then on.

Giving up was never an option for me, and I am in a significantly improved position right now. I continue to voice my views regarding the dire state of workplaces back home; so that women feel empowered to join this industry; so that they know they’re not alone; and that they don’t have to accept work environments that may be unsuitable or unsafe for them.

What’s next in your career journey? 

I plan to continue working for a couple of years and skilling up before I open my own little restaurant with my partner, who is also a chef.

CRICOS 02380M / RTO 4959