Figtree Conference Centre Celebrates Five Year Birthday with a Serve from Star Chef ‘Fast Ed’ Halmagyi

One of the country’s leading hospitality training centres for people with mental health issues has been served a delectable treat - a visit by Australian kitchen king ‘Fast Ed’ Halmagyi.

The well-known chef, author and entertainer visited Flourish Australia’s Figtree Conference Centre at Sydney Olympic Park today where he prepared lunch for in-house staff and offered many culinary tips.

Coinciding with the Figtree Conference Centre’s 5th birthday, the visit was part of a competition run by ‘A Taste of Harmony’ which asks workplaces to bring its staff together each year and celebrate cultural diversity through food. Recognising that Flourish Australia has an outstanding record of promoting workplace cultural diversity, A Taste of Harmony had no hesitation bringing its ambassador - Fast Ed - to the organisation’s catering and conferencing arm to say ‘well done’.

Cooking up a range of dishes, Fast Ed passed on several invaluable pointers to his appreciative and somewhat star-struck audience.

“This was a tremendous morale boost for everyone involved with the Figtree Conference Centre,” Manager Sue O’Rourke said.

“Figtree Conference Centre is an amazing venue for meetings and events but our social purpose is to provide employment and training to people with lived experience of mental health issues, people who might typically struggle to get a foothold in the open employment market. You can’t put a value on the significance of someone as recognised and respected as Fast Ed coming in and teaching us so much.”

Figtree Conference Centre employee Liza Henry said the visit was inspiring for everyone involved.

“It was such a buzz having Ed in our own kitchen and showing us his tricks,” Liz said.

“He was so encouraging and interested in what we do, not just on the catering front but also the social diversity and inclusion front, which is what we’re all about. We learnt so much in the time that Ed was here and have all gained so much from the experience.”

And the verdict from Ed? 

“I was really humbled to spend time with staff at the Figtree Conference Centre and hear some of the inspiring stories about the important work they do. What a passionate group of people!  Food brings people together and gives us a chance to open up and connect. As an ambassador for A Taste of Harmony, which is about sitting down with workmates to share a meal and talk about our cultural backgrounds, I've learnt that everyone has a story.”

The Figtree Conference Centre 

Since opening in 2013 the purpose-built Figtree Conference Centre at Sydney Olympic Park has hosted more than 1,000 meetings and events, including corporate and not-for-profit gatherings and exhibitions.

The centre competes in the open market with other top-line conference facilities across Sydney, although it offers extraordinary social returns by creating supported work and career opportunities for people who live with mental health issues - people who often find it difficult to secure employment and career breaks.

Each worker is trained and mentored. The ability to interact with other workers, achieve goals and make a productive contribution provides a boost for participants’ self-esteem, helping with mental health recovery.

The aim is for workers to obtain skills and experience enabling them to secure jobs in the open labour market. Profits are fed back into the enterprise to assure the centre’s long-term viability.

The Figtree Conference Centre complements a suite of employment enterprises and businesses delivered by Flourish Australia, which currently has more than 300 supported positions across the Sydney metropolitan region.

Flourish Australia is a not-for-profit organisation providing recovery focussed support programs, accommodation and hope for people with mental health issues in New South Wales and Queensland. Advocating community-based assistance, it is a leading mental health support provider that has been in operation for 60 years.

Anyone with a lived experience of a mental health issue wanting to apply for a job at the Figtree Conference Centre or other Flourish Australia businesses should contact Clare Evans on (02) 9393 9035, Sue O’Rourke on (02) 9393 9051 or Vocational Services on (02) 9701 3600.

Media enquiries Matthew Watson - 0417 691 884