A culinary student's guide to studying, working and living in Australia

A culinary student shares some of the things he wished he knew before pursuing his studies in Australia.


Despite finding success in the logistics industry, Raean Racasa always knew he wanted to be back working in the kitchen. Source: Raean Racasa

After majoring in Culinary Arts and working as a chef in the Philippines and Singapore, Raean Racasa experienced a major slump in his culinary career when he decided to take a logistics job in Singapore.

“I accepted a shipping coordinator position that I was offered. My Singaporean work visa was going to expire and I didn’t want to go back to the Philippines,” he shares, adding, “I was there for five years; and all the while, I knew I wanted to be back in the kitchen.”

His desire to be back in the kitchen led him to an opportunity to study in Melbourne.

Like most international students, Mr Racasa was offered a study package consisting of Certificate III in Commercial Cookery, Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery and Diploma in Hospitality. This meant that his studies would take two years to finish.

Here are some of what Mr Racasa discovered in his :

1. Tuition fees for Cookery and Culinary Arts schools vary greatly.

Tuition fees for culinary schools greatly vary. Source: Raean Racasa

Because Mr Racasa had previously studied Culinary Arts in one of the top schools in the Philippines, he opted based his choice of school on the tuition fee instead of the reputation of the school.

He shares that tuition for cookery and culinary schools can range anywhere between 16,000 AUD to 60,000 AUD a year.

2. Write a detailed Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) essay.

Write a detailed GTE. Source: stokpic.com

Mr Racasa admits that because he was excited to make the big move to Melbourne, he rushed some of the requirements for his application.

"Everything happened so fast," he shares, "I booked my IELTS three days before the test so I didn't have time to review. Luckily though, I only needed to score at least 5.5 for each band and an average of 6 for the whole test."

Although Mr Racasa managed to meet the IELTS score requirements for his course, he hit a snag with his Genuine Temporay Entrant (GTE) essay. He shares that both the school and visa applications required essays, but that he rushed the GTE that he sent to the school. 

"My agent passed the GTE that I gave to the school with my visa application," he says, "It wasn't detailed so my first visa application got rejected. My migration agent didn't tell me that he would pass that essay with my visa application. I asked him why he didn't inform me that it should be detailed. He just laughed."

Because his visa application was denied, he had to go through the process and pay for the necessary fees again. Mr Racasa shares that he wrote an extremely detailed GTE the second-time around, stating that his lifelong dream is to put up a restaurant in the Philippines after his studies and also mentioning his wife Vien in his application. 

His second visa application got approved in three months' time.

3. Financial stress is part of the journey.

Financial stress
The cost of living in Australia can cause financial stress. Source: Raean Racasa

Mr Racasa admits that both he and his wife had to make major adjustments when it came to how they spent their money in Australia.

While his tuition isn't putting a large dent on their funds and while he continues to earn money working in a restaurant, the cost of living in Melbourne has forced them to be more mindful about spending.

When they were in the Philippines, the couple could rely on family when things got rough. In Singapore, the couple had steady incomes and had housemates who shared with the bills. On the other hand, the couple now live on their own and have to spend more money for bills and essentials.

He shares that one instance that made him tear up was when he woke up one morning and asked his wife if she wanted to eat breakfast in a nearby café.

"When we went to the café, I looked at the menu. The Eggs Benedict cost 25 dollars, so i told my wife that we should just go home and I'll just cook. We walked home and I couldn't help but cry when I thought about how our life has changed," he shares. 

4. Be open to working "menial" jobs.

Boy chef
Be open to working "menial" jobs. Source: Pixabay

Working in Australia while studying may mean settling for "menial" jobs.

Mr Racasa is currently working as a cook for a Sri Lankan restaurant, but one of his first jobs was to work as a kitchen hand.

He shares, "I've never washed dishes when I was working in the Philippines and Singapore, but I need to earn money. I wasn't ready for how I would feel. I had a hard time with it in the beginning."

He says, however, that while Filipinos typically feel degraded with the kind of work he does, he realised that all jobs are equal in Australia and that people don't look down on you because of the work you do.

5. Have a plan even before you graduate.

Raean future
Have a plan after graduation. Source: Raean Racasa

Mr Racasa is nearing the end of his course. He is set to graduate this April, but feels that because his previous agent wasn't reliable, he is currently rushing to fulfill the requirements of Trade Recognition Australia's Job Ready Program (JRP). The said program will provide him a pathway towards permanent residency.

The JRP has four steps : (1) Provisional Skills Assessment (PSA), (2) Job Ready Employment (JRE), (3) Job Ready Workplace Assessment (JRWA), and (4) Job Ready Final Assessment (JRFA).

"Within two months after finishing my course, I need to find a full-time job. It's because the JRP runs for a year and a half, and I only have 18 months with the temporary graduate visa. So after my studies, I hope the job I have now will retain me as a full-time employee after," he shares. 

Mr Racasa shares that if things don't work out according to plan, his new migration agent informed him that the best alternative pathways would either be to find work in regional areas or to apply for a State-nominated (subclass 190) visa. 

He states that if he manages to find work in a regional area in Australia, he will be eligible to apply for PR after 6 months. If he opts for the 190 visa, he will need to re-take the IELTS and garner a minimum of 6 per band in the test.

Whatever Mr Racasa ends up being eligible for or if he achieves his ultimate goal of putting up a restaurant in the Philippines, he emphasises the importance of being aware and prepared for what lies ahead. 


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6 min read
Published 8 February 2019 at 7:26am
By Nikki Alfonso-Gregorio