Aaron de Souza, UNE Life, Functions and Catering Apprentice Chef

Interview with Aaron de Souza

A few weeks ago we shared a little story about Kerrie, one of our experienced Chef’s behind the scenes at UNE – this week, we would like to introduce you to Aaron de Souza, one of our Apprentice Chef’s.

COVID has meant a world of change for many industries – especially hospitality. But, the team from UNE Life, Functions & Catering (who also look after The Cafe, internal and external catering jobs, The ‘Stro and Booloominbah kitchen) have been here day in day out to look after the staff, students and guests at our Armidale Campus.

Aaron has been working for UNE Life for almost 3 years and has almost completed his first year of his apprenticeship. One of our previous staff members Mitch Barndon – who now works at one of our favourite places, The Welders Dog, was managing The ‘Stro and looking for casual staff in the kitchen – and that’s where it all started!

You’re doing an apprenticeship with UNE Life – tell us a little about this.

Yeah, I am. Basically, to complete a chef’s apprenticeship you need to complete a three-year course. For two of those years on top of working in the kitchen here, I also attend TAFE every Monday; and then the last (third) year of my apprenticeship is all on-the-job training – full time. To graduate from this apprenticeship, I need my manager Scott Leven, my head chef Chris Moloney and Vic my TAFE teacher all to sign off on my training. There’s no cutting corners!

A lot of people think TAFE is all sitting in a classroom learning, but I’m finding that TAFE is mostly cooking – its great! On a typical Monday, we spend a couple of hours in the morning doing theory work, and then the rest of the day is all in the kitchen doing practical learning. I’m learning a lot, its really enjoyable.

Apprenticeships can offer you the best of work and study all at once. You train on the job, study and earn an income all whilst working towards becoming a qualified tradesperson.

Whilst working for UNE Life what skills have you learned or developed that you didn’t expect?

Occasionally I’m needed to help at the front counter, taking orders. Let me tell you, customer service is very, very different to back-of-house work! When I signed up to become a chef’s apprentice, I honestly didn’t expect to be using EFTPOS machines and ringing up half strength decaf skinny caramel lattes! But, I appreciate that these are all great skills to have! UNE Life is pretty agile like that.

What do you enjoy about working in the Kitchen?

The team that I work with are great, we’re always busy; catering, cleaning, prepping – so it’s a good atmosphere to work in day to day. There’s never a dull moment and there certainly are some funny characters in the kitchen, which makes it all the more enjoyable!

For me, working big functions and busy service times are the most fun,  the sense of satisfaction at the end of a big day makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Is there a chef that inspires you?

Yeah. Scott Wallace, he worked here for a short while, but has since moved on to another place in town – I learnt so much from him, and really value time I spent in the kitchen with him. His passion for cooking was infectious, and his way of explaining things really resonated with me. He’s really creative, and you’ll often find him making off-the-cuff Asian dishes – seriously good!

What’s your favourite cuisine?

Oh, I love cooking Asian. It’s always fun to cook, and even better to eat! Asian cuisine usually features a lot of strong flavours and different textures, it’s a fast-paced style of cooking!

To finish up – what do you do with your spare time?

Hmmm… recently I got a puppy – Holli, so I spend a lot of my spare time with my dog, walking, playing, you know.

Holli the Husky puppy, Aaron de Souza, UNE Life, Functions and Catering Apprentice Chef

I often hang out with friends at The Welders Dog. I’m a huge movie buff – I LOVE watching movies – and I also love music. Classic rock is the best! I’m teaching myself yodelling… you probably didn’t expect that!

Haha, no – that’s awesome! Aaron, it’s a pleasure to have you as one of our team, thank you for chatting with us and for keeping the magic alive in the kitchen!


If you’re in Armidale and looking for for something just a little different
visit The Shop, it’s open Monday to Friday and has a range of
amazing local gifts including seasonal treats cooked by the team at UNE Life, Functions & Catering.