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24 September, 2021

Wild Thyme’s for great food and culture

OPENING a brand-new restaurant at the outset of a pandemic is not everyone’s cup of tea or bowl of salad but the owners of Wild Thyme Restaurant in Shields St, Cairns did just that.

By David Gardiner

“We made a conscious decision to stay open during the pandemic and support the community, while continuing to build a reputation for quality food and cultural diversity,” a National Joblink (NJL) spokesperson said.

Nearly 18 months later, Wild Thyme – a not-for-profit social enterprise restaurant established by NJL – thrives on a menu featuring great flavours from across the world and gaining respect in the industry for its community focused social enterprise and training program, ‘Culture Connect’.

 The first round Culture Connect team was made up of eight individuals from diverse backgrounds: Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Rwandan, Māori, and a proud group of Indigenous Australians, all of them excited to share and understand cultures and foods from around the world.

 “Culture Connect program was created with the vision of embracing and connecting people from different cultures through the celebration of food from all over the world,” Jacinta Tam, NJL program coordinator, said.

“Participants were trained in a Certificate II in Hospitality and gained hands-on experience and mentoring at Wild Thyme while being supported and trained by National Joblink trainers in our local Cairns city office.

 “As the program coordinator, I am proud to say that I have personally grown and have drawn strength from these amazing and kind individuals that make our current Culture Connect Crew.”

“This team shared a connection instantly, sharing ideas and stories.”

The students themselves offered much positive feedback.

“It has helped me with confidence and understanding of the restaurant world,” said Samara, new to the hospitality industry and currently looking for employment.

“Before this, I knew nothing about it. I thought it was all about serving and cooking. There is more to it like coffee making, polishing cutlery, presentation.”

Nawal, originally from Saudi Arabia said: “We met new people. We learnt new culture. The connect between us will be a connection for life.”

 Tonessa, a proud local Indigenous and Torres Strait woman, said: “Before Culture Connect, I wasn’t talkative but during the program it has made me more confident in myself. It has helped each one of us to develop our own skills and gain confidence to speak up and be ourselves.”

The training is funded by the Queensland Government through its ‘Skilling Queenslanders for Work’ initiative.

“Culture Connect is a community work skills program which offers tailored assistance to disadvantaged Queenslanders to gain nationally recognised skills and vocational qualifications up to a Certificate III level.”

All of Wild Thyme’s profits go back into the community.  Through their restaurant, NJL have also initiated a charity support program called ‘FoCo Kitchen’ – or Feeding our Community ourselves – which provides more than 60 meals a week to charity organisations so those in need are also able to enjoy a great feed.

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