A talented group of Hunter TAFE students have achieved a rare feat - making chocolate that looks too good to eat. Well, almost.
In recent weeks the commercial kitchens at TAFE NSW Hamilton have been transformed into a chocolate jungle by students completing the final practical component of their Certificate IV in Patisserie course under the expert eye of teacher, chocolatier and pastry chef Dean Gibson.
The sculptures depict bright and imaginative scenes from nature complete with nests, vines, bird eggs and even a cartoonish honey pot.
The students are now hoping to find employment in patisseries, chocolate shops, restaurants or bakeries.
Jo Gray already operates a small business supplying friends and family with pastries and desserts and hopes to one day open her own pastry shop.
"I love being creative and designing and seeing the smiles on people's faces when they see my work or eat it," she said. "We have learnt about stock rotation, how to manage people, rostering and ordering, so the course has definitely helped me take the next step towards opening my own business."
Fellow student Chelsea Richter's "dream job" is to become a top pastry chef and chocolatier and she is on the way to making this dream a reality, having already secured a job trial.
"Being taught by experienced industry professionals is amazing because they care about you learning the skills and succeeding," she said.
Gibson grew up in Edgeworth and attended West Wallsend High School, leaving at age 14 to pursue a pastry cook apprenticeship. He was executive pastry chef at Rockpool in Sydney for many years, is a former coach and manager of Team Pastry Australia and was a member of the Australian Gelato Team which competed in the 2018 Gelato World Cup in Italy. He also pioneered chocolate sculptures inspired by industrial design and 3D printing techniques.
"The final chocolate sculptures are beautiful work and really demonstrate the fundamental skills and knowledge the students have learnt over the course as well as their commitment to presentation," Gibson said.
"Callebaut Belgium chocolate was used to produce all of the individual chocolates, bon bons and confectionary and the chocolate collected from this was used to build the sculptures. This is a good way for the students to learn to have no waste when working with an expensive ingredient.
"The creation of the sculptures is in line with the requirements for WorldSkills national and international competitions and we filmed the construction in parts as a resource for the development for patisserie competitors."
The next WorldSkills Australia National Championships is scheduled to be held in Perth in 2021.