Shirley?s recipe for success


AT an age when most people are planning their retirement Shirley Reid is just starting her career.

At 62 Shirley could be Australia's oldest apprentice chef, according to the Department of Education and Training.

She is taking the fuss in her stride.

"My husband thinks I'm crazy, but I'm having a ball," she said.

"My biggest disadvantage is not my age, it's my height. I'm always having to ask the young chefs to reach things for me."

At 148cm she is affectionately referred to as 'Sammy Sparrow' by her workmates at the Beach Brasserie in the Beach Hotel, Byron Bay.

Shirley, a former nurse, last year swapped an 18-year career as a production potter at her Cawongla-based Taloumbi Pottery for a career in cooking.

"We used to produce terracotta cookery and I would prepare meals to show people how well the pots worked," she said.

Shirley caught the cooking bug as she cooked all day preparing three-course meals to sell her wares through a party-plan system.

"Then I decided to go to TAFE with the idea of forming a gourmet catering company, but the young people I was with at TAFE were all talking about their apprenticeships and I thought: 'I want that too'."

"The more people said I couldn't do it, the more determined I was," she said.

There were many rejections along the way before Shirley started her apprenticeship at the brasserie.

"I'd get to interviews and they'd see a 62-year-old woman and they'd just say they wanted someone younger."

Despite her achievements, Shirley doesn't see herself as a trailblazer. "I don't feel I'm blazing trails, but I do love to encourage women to follow their passions. A lot of women whose families have grown up could do this."

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