If you’re the sort of person who prefers to offset your cheesy, elbow-licking burger indulgence with a little social consciousness – or, if you’re just an upstanding human – you’ll want to find yourself at a Burger Project counter before the end of September.
The gold coin contribution from each burger helps to place aspiring Indigenous chefs into some of Australia’s best and most competitive kitchens.
Scoffing down a Cape Grim grass-fed cheeseburger at the Neil Perry-established burger chain will already make you feel righteous about your fast food choices (and negate the need to apologise to your intestines an hour after eating), but you can now take smugness to the next level with an initiative to give young indigenous chefs a leg up.
For two months only, Rockpool Dining Group’s Burger Project will be flipping patties for the National Indigenous Culinary Institute (NICI), with $1 from the limited edition Outback burger sold at Burger Projects across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane going toward NICI’s apprenticeship program for upcoming Indigenous chefs. The singular, next-rung-up Black Label by Burger Project in Sydney’s Grosvenor Place will also donate $1 from their kangaroo patty Native burger to the program on an ongoing basis.
The gold coin contribution from each burger helps to place aspiring Indigenous chefs into some of Australia’s best and most competitive kitchens. Penrith-born and raised twin brothers Luke and Samuel Bourke applied to the NICI training and mentoring program back in 2016 (which applicants can participate in alongside their Certificate III in Commercial Cookery), and they now both work in Rockpool Dining Group restaurants, Samuel as junior sous chef at Rosetta Ristorante and Luke as chef de partie at Rockpool Bar & Grill.
Far from slapping participants on the back and sending them on their way, the program makes every effort to ensure it doesn’t set its young charges up to fail, offering not only basic training, counselling, uniforms and equipment, but also a window into life beyond the pass. “We provide a three-week pre-apprenticeship program called Skills for Success, that not only upskills participants to commence an apprenticeship, but also gives them a ‘taste’ of what the industry is like, so they can see if it’s for them and if it meets their expectations,” says Michael Ingrey, NICI’s general manager.
"I couldn’t believe it when I was placed at Rockpool Bar & Grill to start my apprenticeship."
For Luke and Samuel Bourke the program turned a chef dream into a goal they could grab with both hands. “I couldn’t believe it when I was placed at Rockpool Bar & Grill to start my apprenticeship,” recalls Luke. “It was really overwhelming to begin with, but the team here have been so supportive and encouraging, and working with Neil [Perry] has been such a rewarding experience.”
And that reward goes both ways. As one of our best-loved and original ‘celebrity chefs’ Neil Perry has been starching his chefs’ whites long enough to know investing in the new guard is what keeps the industry moving forward. “Participating in the program has reinforced what I like to call a ‘give-give’ environment,” explains Perry, “where our more senior team members give their mentorship and guidance and our NICI apprentices give their enthusiasm and, oftentimes, flashes of inspiration to a more mature and established team.”
So, what are we eating? At Burger Project, the Outback ($12.90) kicks the classic Aussie burger up a notch with a slick of lemon myrtle mayo. Sadly, it’s only available until September 30, for now. But you can continue donating to the program by tucking into a Native burger, which features exclusively at Black Label and is here to stay. That’s just as well, because we at SBS Food have become marginally dependent on the lean Paroo kangaroo pattie, cut with just enough beef to bind it all together. A dollop of lemon myrtle mayo, and a spiced quandong, native peach and bush tomato sauce make it worthy of its higher $17 price tag.
A burger binge has never felt so virtuous so, go on, you may as well order fries with that.