By David Schout
While further education exposes students to many ideas and schools of thought, William Angliss Institute’s Aidan Coffey has developed one of his own.
“My philosophy is that I’ll just work in places I can’t afford,” he says, grinning.
The fourth-year bachelor of tourism and hospitality management student has already worked in some of Australia’s best hotels and restaurants.
It’s been a rapid rise for the 22-year-old, who four years ago had no idea he’d go down the path he has chosen.
As it turns out, a high school dinner changed things, and was the first step in an already-promising career.
“When I was in year 12 there was a celebratory dinner for my school’s 125th anniversary and they asked if any students wanted to help out the catering company that was coming,” Aidan explained.
“So I thought ‘yeah why not, I’ll put my hand up’. And I fell in love with it. I thought ‘this is great’, and I could see myself doing something similar for a career. And I slowly started getting the idea from there.”
After considering various institutes to study, he decided on William Angliss.
His first two years at the LaTrobe St institute were largely theory-based – something he admits was initially challenging.
Tourism and hospitality management students are then asked in their third year to undertake a year of industry placement.
After deciding to pursue employment in a hotel, Aidan considered working in the UK and even China for 12 months.
In the end he decided on Tasmania after his mum stumbled across a magazine ad for an exclusive hotel in the picturesque Freycinet National Park.
Soon after contacting Sapphire Freycinet – a $2000 per night coastal sanctuary, recently-voted Australia’s number one luxury hotel – he was packing his bags and headed for the Apple Isle’s east coast.
“It pushes the idea of luxury,” the CBD resident admited.
Naturally, he learned a considerable amount about the ins-and-outs of high-end hospitality, and was gradually given more responsibility.
After six months he was put in charge of the bar – despite professing “no bartending experience” – and developed a cocktail list that is still being used today.
After noticing the absence of a distinct list, he was asked by the general manager to comprise an offering that reflected the area’s distinct surroundings.
In this he created a cocktail called the Freycinet Fling, which included one of the local flowers with a distinct honey smell.
“It included a lot of long nights of experimentation,” he conceded.
Aidan said serving personally-created cocktails was one of several highlights in a 12-month stay in Tasmania, and that the placement year was invaluable.
“I got so invested in the place and made so many lifelong friends. It was pretty hard to leave,” he said.
After moving back to Melbourne to complete his final year of study – of which he is halfway through – he secured a role at Bourke St Italian fine dining restaurant Grossi Florentino.
More recently, he was selected to represent William Angliss at the Victorian Tourism Industry Council student entrepreneurial awards with his proposal for an e-sports road show through regional Victoria.
The high-flyer paid tribute to his education provider.
“Studying at William Angliss has given me the connections to move around in the hospitality industry – whether that’s through the friends I’ve made, the teachers I’ve met or doing student ambassador work. I also believe that studying at the institute has given me a vast pool of knowledge to utilise in the workplace and throughout my career.”
After his studies conclude, Aidan plans to incorporate travel and work, gaining experience in luxury lodges around the world.