AWARD-winning chef Ryan Sessions made his mark on the region in 2010 when he was at the Merrijig Inn, winning Regional Restaurant of the Year and being awarded two chef’s hats in The Age Good Food Guide.
He now runs restaurant Fen out of Port Fairy’s historic Seacombe House with his wife Kirstyn, who looks after the front of house.
Ryan left school after year 11 and moved to Queensland but when jobs were difficult to come by he returned to Warrnambool and enrolled at South West TAFE and that is where he found his passion for food.
He said it was his teachers who inspired him in the profession and helped him get to where he is today.
“My passion for cooking started when I got to TAFE. It was always just going to be a job but the passion from my teachers sparked that passion in me.
“I was looking for a job where I could surf in the morning and afternoon and then I started at TAFE and that’s where it all started,” he said.
Ryan initially completed a bridging course (Certificate I in Cookery) at South West TAFE, which then led him to gain an apprenticeship at the Mahogany Ship restaurant.
“I would recommend the course to anyone. It’s a great foot in the door and great for networking. It’s a great way to open your eyes to the industry.
“From the restaurant side of things it’s a great place to learn what the industry’s like without having to train for four or five years first,” he said.
Ryan said he loved the creative side of his profession and enjoyed that he was his own boss and he had free reign to be as creative as he liked.
“It’s always been a passion. Our lives revolve around the industry. We’ve got a veggie garden at home and we’re always talking about the menu,” he said.
Ryan said there were so many options in the industry and it depended how far you wanted to take it and what lifestyle you wanted.
“You can take these skills and use them to travel the world,” he said.