It seemed like a lifetime. Those 24 hours between the competition and the awards ceremony passed so slowly, I may as well have been wading through treacle. Darwin was hot and muggy, the humidity was oppressive, my fears clung to my skin. As I tried to sleep that night, I lay in the dark and listened to the excited and relieved revelry which drifted up from the pool. It was two thirty in the morning and a large group of competitors were cooling off in the small hotel pool. Finally sleep took me away from the heat of the day and washed away the bitterest of disappoints. Not long after, a Darwin storm took to the skies and bellowed down on me. Being slightly afraid of thunder and lightning, I lay very, very still in my roll out bed and let the magnitude of mother nature do its thing. It sounded like the heavens were going to fall in. I have never heard thunder that deep and rumbling and lightning crack its whip so petulantly on the earth. This was a truly theatrical end to a truly theatrical day.
The next morning, I woke too early again. Four girls in one apartment does not make for many good nights sleep. However, the storm had passed and the day felt different. It was all over now and for the first time in about 6 weeks, I took a deep breath. Lightened by the lack of direction, we decided to do what female chefs never get to do. And we went to get our nails done. Chef’s obviously don’t wear nail polish and can’t have long nails, so this was an exciting moment. As we sat in the nail salon and had our tired feet buffed and polished, we were repeatedly chastised for having such short finger nails. ‘You nail are very short. Not pretty.’ We looked a whole lot prettier when we came out. The ‘angels’ as our all female team had come to be known were looking good and trying very hard not to think about the impending medal ceremony.
Once all the jackets were washed and ironed, we donned our chefs jackets for the last time in Darwin. We arrived at the casino and walked up a grand staircase to the room where the medal ceremony was about to take place. Champagne was waiting for us, the ‘angels’ strode towards the bar, we clutched our drinks in an effort to calm our nerves. I had no expectations for myself but lots for my team members. I knew they had all done well, it was just a question of how well…
As the proceedings began, we sat and listened patiently to speeches, all the while the tension in the room was rising. They called out the results for each year in order, each time we would watch and wait for our team members names to be called. We had a medal for the international student category, we had a medal for the first year category, we had a medal for the second year category. All was looking good for the ‘angels’, we had stood up and applauded each other as everyone’s names were called, we had hugged, we had smiled. The only category left was my category, the final year apprentices. For someone with no expectations of gaining a medal, my hands sure were clammy. My heart was beating faster; every time they called a name and it wasn’t mine, my heart sank a little lower. It felt like a dream when they called my name for a bronze medal. Somehow, in amongst my liquid dessert, my too warm pastry and the searing heat of the kitchen, I had done enough to get a medal. As I walked up to the stage to accept my medal, I was relieved to be going home with something around my neck. It was not the colour that I wanted but I knew in my heart that I did the best that I could do on the day.
I learnt a lot in the competition. I learnt a lot about myself, I learnt that I am stronger than I thought and also that passion is not a weakness. Passion made me cry when things did not go to plan but passion also got me that bronze medal. All that I can do now is look forward; knowing that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.