Alan Stebbing














About Alan Stebbing

 Alan Stebbing had an interest in food and cooking from a very young age. He was encouraged by his mother – who made all her own jams and preserves – and his father who had a wonderful garden with fruit trees and vegetables. At fifteen years old Alan could turn out a wonderful cream sponge and delight his family members.

In 1949 his father sought an apprenticeship for him but there were no positions. Alan says that commercial cooking was very limited then and most people who held these jobs were either migrants or ex-servicemen who had been cooks during World War II. Eager to keep his interest in food alive, his parents enrolled him into a six-month commercial cookery course at the William Angliss Food Trades School in June 1949. This was a full-time course and was mostly attended by ex-servicemen and men being rehabilitated after the war. He remembers Max Dalton was attending the course run by Chef
Walter Zimmerman. There were two women in the course.

On completing Alan gained an apprenticeship at the Commercial Traveller's Club (now the Rendezvous Hotel) Flinders Street Melbourne. He was on trial for three months then became full time for five years. During this time he attended William Angliss with a small group of apprentice cooks from other Melbourne establishments for four years. He recalls:

William Angliss was a good start for me in my apprenticeship. Walter Zimmerman was in charge and Norma Finley did a bit of demonstrating but Walter was the only chef while I was there. Norma did lectures in the afternoon and was "Master of Apprentices".

Alan was a dedicated apprentice and was recognised with the Walter Troedel Award in 1953:
I used to get ideas at William Angliss and would come back to CTC and tell my boss – he would incorporate these ideas into the menu. I learned to decorate glasses with egg white and coloured sugar crystals I would do this for special events at CTC. I was keen to learn French so I bought French records and practiced speaking and writing French so that I could write the menus up in French. This put me in good favour with Miss Findley. In 1952 I was named best apprentice of the year. In 1953, I received letter from Melbourne Wine and Food Society, a very prestigious club in July. I was to be presented with the Walter Troedel Award at a special dinner at the Yin Bun Lo Oriental Restaurant in Melbourne. The guest-speaker was Oliver Shawl the top man of Federal Hotels in Melbourne. I received a five-pound prize and a medal. Keith Dunstan was there – from Melbourne Sun – he wrote about the dinner and my award in the Herald Sun. The Age reported it as well. Sir William Angliss presented the award to him at the school. It is one of my treasured possessions.

Alan finished his apprenticeship in 1955 and stayed on at CTC. John Miller had been head chef and he left to travel overseas. After leaving the CTC Alan worked briefly at Monsanto Chemicals then moved to Kraft Foods in Port Melbourne. He also ran a cooking school for Army Reserves and managed the Army Headquarters kitchen in St Kilda Rd. He also ran the catering for Melbourne Grammar School and is very proud that he changed the style of food served at the Boarding school from "watered down milk and prison-style food" to satisfying food for growing young men.

Alan's oldest son also studied at William Angliss.

Summary of the Interview

Interviewer:  Jill Adams 
Interviewee: Alan Stebbing
Date of Interview: 30/08/2010
Recording Format: MP3



Key words


Cooking as an interest

  • Encouraged by parents made jam and home cooking
  • Large garden with vegetables and fruit trees
  • Used to make cream sponges for family members
Garden; jam; cream sponge


Pursuing a Cooking Career

  • At 15 talks to father about cooking career but no apprenticeships available
  • Went to WAI for a 6 month course from June to December 1949
William Angliss Institute (WAI); apprenticeship; 1949


WAI- Renewal after World War Two

  • WAI had bread baking, pastry and butchery for apprentices only
  • Commercial Cookery course had mostly older people and ex-servicemen undergoing rehabilitation in the 6 month course under chef Walter Zimmerman
  • Photo of 1949 commercial cookery class- mainly military people (Alan was the youngest) either serving or finishing off rehabilitation; two women in the course also pictured
World War Two; Max Dalton (an officer);

Walter Zimmerman;

Commercial cookery; Ernest Seaton



  • Apprenticed at the CTC; trial for 3 months then stayed on for 5 years
Commercial Travellers’ Club

(CTC); Flinders Street


WAI Commercial Cookery Course, 1949


  • Melbourne Town Hall function - large buffet with decorated ham, crayfish (cheaper than today), etc.
  • All was handmade – sauces and mayonnaise
  •  Kitchen with a large electric oven, small tables and chairs where the chef demonstrated and prepared the food
Melbourne Town Hall; crayfish; ham; potato salad; quenelles; aspic; snapper; carrots; mayonnaise; electric oven; dough hook


Reflections on Apprenticeship

  • “It was a good start – I learned a lot.”
  • Not a common career path in the 1950s; only 5 other apprentices in his year - always small classes
  • Australian hospitality industry was undeveloped - very small not may places for apprenticing
  • Chef Zimmerman was the primary chef and Chef Finley (‘Master of Apprentices’) lectured in the afternoon (on cooking methods, food science, etc.)
  • Classes prepared food for dining room, special orders prepared in bulk
  • Apprenticeship with CTC became official in 1950 - starting wage of 29 Shillings per week
Food Trade School; John Miller; John & Ron Wormell; The Hotel Windsor; The Grand Hotel Frankston; Keith Dickson; Bill Clark; Scott’s Hotel Collins Street; Peter Webb; Myer Mural Hall;  Norma Finley; Master of Apprentices; Assistant Principal Mr Jones; wages; 1950; Commercial Travellers’ Club


Hospitality Industry in the 1950s

  • Commercial cookery in Melbourne leading up to Olympic Games mostly migrants, ex-service backgrounds
  • High turnover in the kitchens - many cooks came and went because of high demand
  • Staff worked ‘broken’ shifts (Start 8am-2pm; off til 5pm-8pm)
  • Anecdotes of alcohol fuelled rows between staff in kitchens
Melbourne; Olympic Games; ‘broken’ shifts; Commercial Travellers’ Club; New Zealand Sole


Shift in Hospitality Industry brought on by Olympic Games

  • With Olympics the whole cooking industry and level of catering changed as foreign professionally trained chefs came out
Olympic Games


Working at Commercial Travellers’ Club

  • Completed apprenticeship in May 1955
  • CTC was a base for travellers to see employers, used as a residence; not a traditional exclusive gentlemen’s club.
  • Photograph of traditional façade
  • Reflects on working with Chef John Miller and Miller’s career (working on a commercial liner, etc.)
1955; Commercial Travellers’ Club; Rendezvous Hotel; John Miller; Commercial Liners- Cumulous, Nimbus, Stratus; Europe;


Chef John Miller’s Legacy

  • Miller’s work led to William Angliss becoming the TAFE College industry leader in professional commercial cookery
John Miller, George Hilf; TAFE; Olympic Games;


Classes at WAI

  • One day a week for 4 years
  • Left the CTC for compulsory National Service at 18
  • Apprenticeship – Walter Zimmerman’s commercial cookery class (every 6 months a new group of students)
  • Tight-knit classes, 5 or 6 students at a time- progressed through the four years together
  • Able to shift employers during the apprenticeship but this was not common – as jobs were scarce
Commercial Travellers’ Club; National Service; Walter Zimmerman


Commercial Travellers’ Club in the 1950s

  • Photograph: 1952 CTC Menu - Friday night opened for mixed (men & women) galas (prior only men allowed)
  • Special nights for President’s Night & billiard competitions with other clubs
  • Anecdote- decorating glasses with sugar crystals and eggwhites for seafood cocktails
  •  Specialised in pastry work, particularly sausage rolls
Commercial Travellers’ Club; President’s Night; sugar crystals; egg whites; seafood cocktail; pastry; sausage rolls


Commercial Travellers’ Club 1952 Menu

  • Typical 1950s cuisine (an English-Australian mix)
  • Chef Percy Hall (quite strict) liked a high standard
  • Apprentices responsible for washing pots, peeling prawns, skin the sole (popular dish - 50 a day) or plaice (substitute fish if the Sole ran out- much harder to peel) all preparation work done by larder cook and apprentices
  • Job changed in last 2 years - new apprentices started and New Head Chef Andy Urich (Yugoslavian); focus on sweets and pastry work and responsible for phone orders
Commercial Travellers’ Club; Percy Hall; English; New Zealand Sole; prawns; plaice; larder cook; kitchen-man; steaks; mis-on-place; American Apple pie; Chicken Maryland; shortcrust; canned apples; chicken breast; pineapple fritter; sweet corn fritter; potato croquette; peas; side dishes; jacket potato; Brown Sauce; Tony Edsall; Chef Andy Urich; Melbourne Oyster Supply; Watkins Butchers










Career Highlights 1960s-1980s

  • Café Manager at Monsanto Chemicals, ran the  industrial cafeteria catering for 800 employees & Management Skills Course
  • Unilever at Port Melbourne: catering for events and trade functions; committee member - Catering Institute of Australia
  • Catering Manager: Kraft Foods where he stayed for 27 years; catered for 1200 employees over 3 shifts (mostly migrant workers
  • Army Reserve Catering Corps for 28 years – rations for 80 Reservists for 2-week period at the annual camp
  • Kraft encouraged a tour of Food Trade Shows to demonstrate products
Monsanto Chemicals; Footscray; Aspro; Unilever; EOI Lever; Rexona; Charles Abbot; Australian Institute of Management; Port Melbourne; Catering Institute of Australia; Andre Le Nosier; Kraft Foods; Union; Army Reserve; General Motors; Commonwealth Aircraft; stews; braises; roasts; grills; bulk; Sandwich Bars; Jams; Supermarket; Sergeant; Food Trade Shows and Exhibitions









Apprenticeship Highlights

  • Most valuable aspect- visiting chefs taught French pastry (Choux) & old style of French cooking, big influence on speciality
  • Take ideas from WAI back to CTC and incorporate into the menu; very conscientious student (bought French records to practice and write the menus in French) 
  • Awards: Best apprentice of the year - 1952; Melbourne Wine and Food Society presented with Walter Troedel Award (July 1953) [Refers to Newspaper clippings marking events]  
  • Keith Dunstan [Food Writer] Wrote for The Age and other food magazines and other attendees of Melbourne Wine and Food Society Dinner - top echelons of food industry
  • Antelope award- for Best Pastry Chef
French Louis; French Pastry (Choux); glazed foods; fruit jellies; Commercial Travellers’ Club; Bread and Butter Custard; Jam and/or rum omelette; dessert; Bombe Alaska; Bombe Vesuvius; criss-cross; blowtorch; French; Miss Finley; Walter Troedel Award; Melbourne Wine and Food Society; Oliver Shawl; Federal Hotel Association; Summit Sydney; Herald Sun; Keith Dunstan; The Age; Yin Bun Lo Oriental Restaurant; Sir William Angliss; Keith Dunstan; Victoria Cross Medal; RAAF; World War Two; Bicycle Riders’ Club; The Shrine of Remembrance; RJ Emerson; Victorian Coffee Palace; Apprenticeship Commission; Antelope Award





  • Great Grandfather ran a hotel and oldest son Geoffrey went to WAI Catering Management Roles
  • Army Cooking School - instructing classes & catering events, involved in putting together a Cooking & Operation Manual
Army Reserves; South Melbourne; Sturt Street; Gipps Street; Richmond St Kilda Rd; Grosvenor House; Watsonia; TAFE; Puckapunyal; The Rock; Cerberus; Sir Stanford Hicks; beef; fish kedgeree; PAM 3 (recipes for 1500- bulk catering); bush oven








Other Highlights

  • Army Demonstrations best part of his career
  • Enjoyed working at Kraft and at Melbourne Grammar School as a short-term cook; lived at the school & stayed for 3 years; looked after the borders and catered for functions; old style school kitchen (changed the way it was run from almost prison style food) Friday Fun Nights- interesting desserts
  • Responsible for the laundry & maintenance; forced to retire due to poor health; proud of what he achieved
Kraft; Melbourne Grammar School; Domain Street; Dingley; Luxton Dining Hall; Salad Bar; Church of England; Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne;


End of Interview































































































































































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