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From kitchen hand to chef: How a kitchen hand worked his way up

Mark Guilas started as kitchen hand and worked his way up as a chef. Source: Mark Guilas

Mark Guilas started off as a kitchen hand but now pursues a career as chef. Even without a culinary degree, Mark made it to the top.

It was year 2012 when Mark Guilas and his family made a life changing decision to migrate to Australia in the hopes of starting a new life.

Mr Guilas who previously worked for the BPO industry back in the Philippines shares that it was a tough start for him, his wife and only daughter when they first came to Australia.

In order to provide for the needs of his family, Mr Guilas applied for several jobs and eventually landed as a kitchen hand.

"I started as a kitchen hand and a dishwasher. I received $11 per hour cash on hand. I didn't mind because I wanted to work in a real Australian kitchen," he shares.

As a kitchen hand and floor staff at the Coffee Club Essendon, Mr Guilas washed dishes, prepared the kitchen, handled food and brushed the floor.

Although he admits that it was challenging, he worked hard despite not having any kitchen experience in the past.

Mark Guilas started off as kitchen hand but now he is a chef.
Mark Guilas started off as kitchen hand but now he is a chef.
Mark Guilas in the Kitchen


From kitchen hand to pastry chef

Not long, Mr Guilas left the job and worked as a pastry chef for Watergardens Hotel where his new job taught him new kitchen skills such as; cutting cakes, breads and fruits, arranging cutlery and labels, and setting up the buffet.

To his surprise, the day came when his head chef started to train him more in the kitchen.

"My head chef gave me a chance to learn. In a week, he would give me one shift so I can be trained until later on I became a pastry chef."

Mr Guilas says he kept his eyes glued to his passion and sought for another opportunity at Merrywell, Crown Hotel where he started to cook professionally.

Mark Guilas
Mark with one of his mentors
Mark Guilas


From pastry chef to chef de partie

Switching from one job to another, he found himself next at Melbourne International airport's Cafe Vue by Shannon Bennett.

Mr Guilas says that his ultimate dream of managing the kitchen only came into existence when he landed as chef de partie.

His work was to support the head chef and sous chef on their day to day operation, mentoring and supervising cooks and stewards, and ensuring daily responsibilities were met. 

Mr Guilas says anything is possible in Australia when one consistently perseveres to achieve his hopes and dreams.

"When I came to Australia I was so inspired that anything is possible if you work hard for it."

Mr Guilas shares that he endured so many sacrifices including time with family, burnts and cuts from cooking and slicing just to pursue his passion in cooking.

"I had to put in hard work and many sacrifices. I burn and cut my hands because I learnt firsthand from the kitchen. I'm grateful that the head chef and sous chef were very willing to teach me. It built my confidence until I learnt on my own."

He also shares that although there were times when he felt intimidated considering that he was working with qualified cooks and chefs, it did not stop him from climbing the ladder.


Award-winning airport chef

After a few years with the company, Mr Guilas received his first award when he competed for the Airport Retail Enterprise 2016 food and excellence contest participated by all airport chefs in the state of Victoria. 

Mr Guilas' soft shell grilled chicken taco won the hearts of the judges and as a prize, he was then sent to Hong Kong and China with all the other interstate winners for a culinary experience to help them further develop their kitchen skills.

"It was nerve-wracking because I was the smallest one and they were all white Australians. It was so scary but i pursued and went with the challenge. I always say just go for it, give it your best."

Mark Guilas with Frank Burger (Corporate Executive Chef at Airport Retail Enterprises)
Airport Retail Enterprises

From restaurant chef to servicemen chef

After a few years as chef de partie in the airport, Mr Guilas felt that he needed to do something more purposeful.

He decided to apply as a chef for the Australian Defence and fortunately got the job after a scrupulous process of hiring.

"I realised I didn't want to cook in a cafe anymore. I wanted my job to have more meaning. I thought by doing this I am serving our country. I think this is my part. To serve good food to men in defence."

At the moment, Mr Guilas cooks meals for the Australian soldiers and he says the food he prepares are bigger than normal as they need more energy to last throughout the day.

"We cook bigger meals as their diet includes a variety of vegetables, starch and protein."

MArk Guilas in the kitchen
Mark Guilas in the kitchen
Mark Guilas


Mr Guilas says he finds utmost value in his current career and he encourages Filipinos wanting to set foot in the culinary industry to keep trying.

"Whatever job you have right now do not let go. The first month is hard but always think of it as a challenge."

Mr Guilas takes pride in the fact that Australians see Filipinos as hardworking, persevering and patient wherever industry they are.

A testament that Filipinos can truly compete in any field be it nationally or internationally.


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