Alumna's journey to award-winning culinary entrepreneur
Culinary entrepreneur, consultant, chef and owner of 2 businesses alumna Tawnya Bahr has combined her extensive culinary experience and passion for the ‘paddock to plate’ process to become an industry powerhouse.
Tawnya was recently named Gault&Millau’s 2018 Culinary Advocate of the Year, and despite her life having always revolved around cooking, it was not her first career path.
Originating from Roseburg, Oregon, Tawnya's first job at college was receptionist for an IT company where she climbed the ladder to eventually become their International Sales & Marketing Manager - giving her the opportunity to travel the globe, explore cuisines and hone her business skills.
After moving to Australia in 1995, Tawnya found it challenging to find condiments which tasted like her homeland favourites and contained no preservatives; a gap in the Australian market she wished to explore. “My business background and love for food allowed me to heavily research the Australian market and understand opportunities, which is how my first business, The Condiment Connoisseur started. I engaged US suppliers and soon began importing chillies, pickled garlic and mustards, and became an Australian distributor,” she said.
In time, Tawnya expanded the range with her own products including a line of gourmet seafood sauces. "I’ve always cooked from scratch so to take one of my recipes and navigate the process to bring it to market was incredibly rewarding and terrifying. When I started selling my seafood sauce at the Sydney fish market, I knew I had found a passion I wanted to pursue and grow.”
Following feedback from her customers at the market, Tawnya refined her formulas to cater for the Australian palette, which landed her a place in the food halls of retail powerhouse, David Jones. The Condiment Connoisseur grew rapidly into a food production and gourmet distribution company, which Tawnya later sold in 2001.
After selling her business, Tawnya continued to be a consultant within the industry assisting other artisan producers, catering, teaching cooking classes and running farmers’ market tours which involved educating her audience on the ‘paddock to plate’ style of cooking.
In 2010, Tawnya decided to formalise her culinary qualifications by attending Le Cordon Bleu Sydney Institute where she studied commercial cooking. “At Le Cordon Bleu I was exposed to an extraordinary level of culinary expertise, and the institute gave me formal training from the ground up, allowing me to back up the skills and knowledge I had gained in the industry already.”
After graduating with a Le Cordon Bleu Diplôme de Cuisine (SIT30816 Certificate III in Commercial Cookery), Tawnya started her industry food tour company Straight to The Source and continued to run her consultancy business Tawnya Bahr Food Consulting.
The experiences provided by Le Cordon Bleu were second to none, with my most memorable moment being able to cook for Chef Hervé This, one of molecular gastronomy's patron saints – it’s a moment in time I will never forget.
With over 20 years' industry experience, Tawnya has observed the highs and lows of hospitality and recognises its challenges including mental health across all sectors of the food industry. The service Straight To The Source provides in supporting the farmers and giving chefs an opportunity to get out into the country, breathe fresh air, connect with the soil and have time out is a healthy and beneficial professional resource.
“Creating a business from scratch, staying true to your values and having it be sustainable isn’t always easy. The food industry isn’t a 9 to 5 job. It’s fast moving and constant which requires you to wear a lot of different hats. The food industry is still very male-dominated and being a mother in the workforce can be quite challenging. It’s a constant juggle for work-life balance, it’s difficult to tend to your sick child in the middle of a dinner service or regional food tour in the Australian outback.”
Tawnya has a passion to support the growers and farmers behind our food system and her work in both of her food related businesses does just that. She will continue to bring growers, producers and chefs together with her knowledge of the local and global food landscape to nourish a thriving food industry.
CRICOS 02380M / RTO 4959