Our Team

Jen Vickery

Jen Vickery

Jen has worked in hospitality since 1982, both bar work and front-of-house in restaurants including Station Masters Cottage (St Leonard’s), La Grillade and The Red Centre (Crows Nest), and Annie Parmentier’s Lunch in Castlecrag. She liked the hospitality aspect of being front-of-house but also wanted to understand the bigger picture, so enrolled in Commercial Cookery at East Sydney Tech (now TAFE) in 1991.

“From age 10, my brother and I would take turns to create a monthly ‘dinner party’ for our parents with handmade menus and no assistance in the kitchen (he went on to join MasterChef and I went on to join Sydney Seafood School). In my teens, I’d bake a cake each week after Saturday sport for us to have for school lunches. In 1985 I took my first overseas trip, was bitten by the ‘travel bug’, and still need to travel at least twice a year – with those trips always including plenty of eating! After a recent trip to the Middle East, my current favourite cookbook is Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem - I love all cookbooks that combine cooking and travel, including Coastline by Lucio Galletto and India by Christine Manfield. I had my first Seafood School experience in 1990 at a class called ‘Crabaganza’, which later morphed into Chilli Crab, still one of our most popular recipes. I joined the Sydney Seafood School team 17 years later and have loved the opportunity to do live-crosses for morning television and Seafood-School-On-the-Road demonstrations at seafood festivals up and down the NSW coast, as well as hosting classes in the School.

I love taking away the fear of preparing and cooking seafood that so many Sydney Seafood School guests arrive with - I love seeing the satisfaction they experience when they section a crab or strip a squid for the first time and then their joy in eating what they’ve created.”

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Fiona Baxter

Fiona Baxter

Fiona studied cookery at La Varenne École De Cuisine in Paris in 1980 and then spent 4 years cooking at Jenny Ferguson’s You & Me Restaurant in the Sydney CBD (with Stefano Manfredi). A series of cafés followed, including Bronte Cafe (the first on the Bronte Beach strip), which she opened in 1985 and ran for 14 years while also operating wholesale cake business, Epicurean Kitchen. In 2000, Fiona obtained a Certificate III in Travel & Tourism and gave guided tours that included advise on which restaurants to visit. She worked briefly as production chef for Jones the Grocer then ran Fideli Cafe & Food Store in Waverley from 2002-2006, making everything onsite. After a brief stint of food prep and styling for TV, she landed at Sydney Seafood School in 2008.

“I don't really remember anyone ‘teaching’ me to cook, but always accompanied my mother shopping and was active in deciding what to buy and cook. My grandmother and aunts always cooked from scratch and there were always two home cooked desserts at dinner and freshly baked cakes and biscuits at afternoon tea. I remember making biscuit dough at home by myself after school when I was quite young, in primary school, and the neighbour cooking it for me because I wasn't allowed to turn the oven on by myself! She also provided jam, so I suspect it wasn't so tasty! Why do I like cooking? I guess I like feeding people - I always cook too much!  I enjoy putting different ingredients together and love trying something I’ve never tried before. The possibilities fascinate me, I don't really have a favourite dish, as I always want to cook something new. I love traditions, but always do what you’re ‘not supposed to do’ and try out new recipes on guests. I have a mega cookbook library but am not faithful to any one author. Cookbooks are often bedtime reading for me, with a huge pile beside my bed. I do like Vegetables from an Italian Garden as it combines gardening and great recipes for all those delicious Italian vegetables like artichokes and radicchio. Bitter by Jennifer McLagan is another favourite, as are Peter Gordon's books because of his interesting flavour combinations. And I love almost any baking book.

I love working at Sydney Seafood School because no day is the same, we're always learning from our guest chefs. We work with a great team and constantly meet new people through our guests. It's a pleasure and a great reward to see that they have a fabulous time while they are with us.”

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Grace Milinthangkul

Grace Milinthangkul

Grace emigrated from Thailand in 2009 and started working in hospitality, including a Newtown Thai restaurant, Sushi Inn in Randwick, and preparing around 500 portion-controlled meals per day for Easy Eating weight loss program. She worked her way up from kitchen hand, through the ranks to kitchen manager and joined the Seafood School team in 2013.

“I love home cooking, for the authenticity, the tradition and the fresh produce. I grew up with my grandmother’s home cooking and for me it's just about the love and caring that comes out when you cook for your family or friends. I’ve been cooking since I was very young, I always helped my grandmother prepare our food. I enjoy Thai food of course, but also Chinese and Japanese. Maybe because I know more about them and have more confidence using those ingredients. It’s hard to say what my favourite dish is, but the one I cook most often is larb pork (a spicy Thai salad of pork mince and herbs that’s quick, healthy, really refreshing and full of flavour). 

I love working at Sydney Seafood School because of the food knowledge I’ve gained and all the different techniques I’ve learnt from our guest chefs and the other team members. And I love being able to pass that on to our guests.”

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Vera Fusanto

Vera Fusanto

Vera started working at the Seafood School in 2018. She was born in Indonesia and immigrated to Australia in 2016. Her mother was Cantonese, and she says:

“My mother taught me to cook when I was a teenager and most Chinese people will tell you how great Cantonese women are in the kitchen, so I think that's why I love cooking and food – it’s in my DNA. I always want to hear comments from everyone who tries my cooking - good or bad, whatever they have to say will help me to improve. I’ve never studied cookery (which I regret), but I believe that what I need most to be a good cook is passion – and I have plenty of that. I love seafood more than any other food, especially prawns and crab. The easiest and tastiest prawn dish, which I cook often, is butter prawns … and for mud crab the best is my mother’s recipe with red chilli and fermented soybeans.

I love working at Sydney Seafood School because of the food, of course, but also because of the friendly environment – among the team, but also with our guests who really enjoy cooking as much as I do.”

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Amelia Maait

Amelia Maait

Amelia's first food job was at Sweeties Ice Cream Parlour at Birkenhead Point while she was still at school; she also spent Saturday’s working at a Lebanese food stall at Paddington Markets. After school she studied fashion, working nights in the kitchen and behind the bar at her local Pizza Hut (when Pizza Hut was still a ‘real restaurant’). She carved out a successful career in fashion, as a buyer, designer and lecturer, while exploring her passion for food through attending cooking classes as well as conducting some for children in her home. She joined the Seafood School office team in 2014, ordering all of the produce for classes, and also began working weekend shifts at classes. She now oversees the School’s corporate event bookings and still enjoys getting ‘hands-on’ in the School.

“I love cooking because I love sharing food with everyone around me! I watched my parents cook as a child and was always fascinated, but I didn’t really start cooking until high school. My home science teacher in year 7 was Italian and I remember being over the moon when he taught us to make Bolognese sauce. The following week we learnt pineapple upside-down cake – and I made both of those dishes for many years! I love Gourmet Traveller Magazine, every month it inspires me to cook something new and to challenge myself with new ingredients. For over 25 years, a group of friends and I have hosted regular dinner parties with all recipes taken from the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller.  The host prepares the main course, and everyone else takes responsibility for canapé, entrée and dessert. Members of the ‘Gourmet Traveller Group’ are now living all around the world so we’ve had dinner parties in Fiji, Italy, Singapore and Bali, as well as Sydney, Canberra and Perth.

I love working at Sydney Seafood School because of the people and the food. Everyone that works here has a deep love for food and I feel at home among likeminded people.”

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Shiona Williams

Shiona Williams

Shiona studied cookery at East Sydney TAFE for 6 months in the early ‘90s between Economics/Asian Studies at ANU and Architecture at UTS, and now says: “I wish I’d stayed on the food track then!” Food was never far away in her life; in primary school she entered pikelets and scones in the local Camden Show (once winning 2nd prize for her scones), she did Year 10 work experience at Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine, and waitressed at The Australian Club while at university. Shiona joined the Seafood School office team in 2017 as an administrative assistant and now overseas the ordering of all produce and equipment for classes, as well as assisting in the School on weekends.

“I just love good food! I love learning about different foods and cuisines – there’s not much I won’t try. I enjoy the whole process of cooking: deciding what to cook by trawling through recipe books, sourcing ingredients and, finally, following the recipe and enjoying my time in the kitchen (I’m a recipe follower, not an improviser). I think it’s also about making my family and friends happy through something as simple as cooking for them. My grandmother was a great cook and loved to provide for her family – nothing was ever too much trouble. I first spent time in the kitchen with her, mainly baking, when I was quite young. I hope I’ve inherited a little bit of her innate nurturing and hospitality. She would set the table for breakfast the night before and cover it with a net cloth. She loved to entertain and was always trying new recipes – I remember her Margaret Fulton Cookbook open on the bench, along with Greta Anna for special occasions. I’ve had lots of favourites cookbooks at different times in my life – Jill Dupleix’s Old Food and New Food were great in the ‘90s when I first started cooking meals and entertaining rather than just baking cakes. My go-to now is absolutely Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion – it’s so comprehensive, a great reference as well as full of fantastic recipes. I also often use recipes torn out of newspapers and magazines – I have a very messy and overflowing recipe compendium. I don’t really have a favourite dish to cook, though I do I love slow cooking and definitely lemon as a flavouring – anything with lemon is delicious!!

I love coming to work at a real fish market every day – it’s quite special and I feel very lucky. I love being in an industry that gives so much joy, to me and to others. Being surrounded by people who love food as much as I do and that I’m constantly learning from. At Sydney Seafood School I’m finally working in the field I should have pursued from the beginning!”

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Jack Hood

Jack Hood

Jack joined the Seafood School team in 2019, when he enrolled to study Business and Law at UTS and, although this is his first food job, he did interview local restaurateurs on the community radio show he hosted while still at school in Coffs Harbour. Experienced or not, like all of the Sydney Seafood School team, Jack enjoys cooking and eating.

“My first real cooking experience was making cakes with my grandmother when I was around five or so. Now cooking excites me because there are so many options, there’s always something different to try, a new ingredient, cuisine or cooking style. My favourite cookbook is probably Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals - I’m a uni student, so being able to cook something quickly that’s relatively healthy is a God send. And my favourite dishes are lasagne (comfort food that really reminds me of home) and the Seafood School’s Moroccan tagine - it’s become one of my favourite dishes since I tasted it at a class. 

I love working at Sydney Seafood School because of the range of food I’m exposed to and the people I meet. We have dishes with flavours from across the globe, and guest chefs that give me a taste of restaurants I might not otherwise get to experience.”

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