Former Sussex chef takes title of Australian Professional Chef Of The Year

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Restaurant closures, staff shortages, wage rip-offs: these are the Australian hospitality industry stories that make headlines. But did you know Australia has a newly crowned Chef of the Year?

Forget celebrity popularity contests and polls voted by websites and critics. Australia’s premier hospitality organisation has awarded the title of Australian Professional Chef of the Year to Former Sussex chef, Tommy Prosser.

The Sydney-based, Michelin-trained culinary talent defeated a tough cohort of chefs at the recent Food Service Australia exhibition, our largest national hospitality trade show.

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Recognised as the ultimate skill-testing platform, Chef of the Year is the most prestigious peer-judged chef competition in Australia, offering more than $25,000 in cash and prizes. This year’s judging panel included some of our country’s best known chefs and restaurateurs, including George Calombaris, Simon Sandall, John McFadden and Justin North.

Chef Tommy Prosser, Australian Professional Chef Of The Year 2024.Chef Tommy Prosser, Australian Professional Chef Of The Year 2024.
Chef Tommy Prosser, Australian Professional Chef Of The Year 2024.

Tommy bested his competitors in a series of live cooking heats over three days. Each stage allowed the chefs just one hour to formulate, cook, and present four plated starters and four plated mains using a mystery box of ingredients.

His Chef of the Year win is a testament to Tommy’s dedication and skill. He honed his craft at the Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor in Sussex, England, joining the ranks of such distinguished alumni as Darren Robertson and Lennox Hastie. Tommy also trained in the classics under the legendary Michel Roux at the Roux Brothers’ renowned Waterside Inn, joining a lineage that includes Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, and Australia’s own Luke Mangan.

Tommy built strong foundations under head lecturers Ron Lee and Ken Ellis. Chef Ken's input into his career at such an impressionable time has been a guiding light throughout his journey. Ken encouraged Tommy and all students to compete, test themselves, and network. Ken, a highly decorated chef with numerous competition awards and extensive industry recognition, has played a pivotal role in shaping aspiring chefs. Now, in his full-time role, Ken reaches a wider range of students, assessing and encouraging the next generation. Who knows what spark he will ignite in the next cooking champion?

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Tommy reflects: "I wouldn't have won the awards, tested myself, cooked at the highest standard of 3 Michelin stars, or become the National Champion Australian Professional Chef Of The Year 2024 if it wasn't for Ken Ellis's mentorship, advice, and constant encouragement and the strong foundation I learnt at Sussex Downs College."

Moving to Australia in 2010, Tommy soon became a key player in the casual dining scene. In its first year, his Melbourne venue, Hobba, received a 3-star ranking in The Age Good Food Guide for best food under $30. At Single O in Sydney, his innovative specials attracted top chefs and food enthusiasts. Appointed group chef, he consistently retained the café’s 3-star Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide under $30 rating and expanded the brand to additional venues.

Tommy has worked as a private chef for some of Australia’s most prominent families and A-listers, maintaining a professional discretion that is highly valued in such roles. Catering for philanthropic causes, he has helped raise millions of dollars at charity events.

He was a shareholder and opening team executive chef at Berrima Vault House, an exclusive members club, before selling his stake in 2023 to represent NSW in the Bocuse d’Or competition.

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Currently, Tommy’s creativity is on display through his businesses, Hospitality Works and Crustacean Nation. Through the latter, he hosts a “bougie” seafood street-food stand at Carriageworks Farmers Market, serving Australian lobster rolls, prawn manapua, and other inventive specials.With classes, pop-ups, kitchen takeovers, and collaboration dinners planned in NSW and the UK, and exciting media opportunities in the works, Tommy’s career is poised for greatness. Yet the humble chef is grateful to his adopted homeland and the prospects rising from his Chef of the Year title.

“I am deeply honoured to receive this award and have the chance to make my mark on Australia’s dynamic culinary scene,” Tommy said. “The support from the community has been incredible, and I’m leaping at every opportunity to innovate, experiment, educate and share my love for food. Watch this space!”

Follow his journey on Instagram @tommyprosser

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