Shirley Skinner






About Shirley Skinner

 Shirley Skinner was one of two girls who signed up for a six-month commercial cooking course in 1952. There were 34 students in her class. She had been cooking for the Penola Hotel in South Australia and decided to come to Melbourne to further her cooking skills; William Angliss was one of the only places where commercial cooking was offered. Her group cooked for many special dinners: New Zealand Toheroa soup, snapper, cauliflower and béchamel sauce, caramel creams, vegetable soup, paprika beef stew, baked apple dumplings, fried bread sauce, giblet soup, Scottish olives, bread and butter custard… There were ordinary things and the dinners.

Summary of the Interview


Interviewer:  Jill Adams

Interviewee: Shirley Skinner

Date of Interview: 16/03/2011

Recording Format: MP3        





Motivations for studying at WAI

  • Grew up in Coonawarra and was inspired by her mother to take up cooking
  • Was only school around that offered cookery course on commercial basis
Royal Oak Hotel; Penola; Cook; Coonawarra, S.A.


Studying at WAI

  • Cooking course for six months (full-time), which focused on different sections and skills needed
  • Separate from the apprentices
  • Studied under Chef Zimmerman (‘small short man’) who oversaw all
  • Moved from the country to live in the city, and felt a little confined & out of place
  • 34 students in the class (only two were girls)
  • Made some good friends with other students, who would take her around Melbourne
Cookery course; apprenticeship; butchery; baking; sweets; bread-making; bullock; sheep; Chef Zimmerman; German Emily Macpherson; Mrs Amy; Miss Laby; Princess Mary Club; Lonsdale Street; Ros Seiler; Oakleigh;


Staff at Angliss

  • Apprentices in a separate classes, sometimes they would combine for some subjects
  • Would prepare food for dinners every week, lunches & events
  • Extensive Menu items with many challenging aspects, divided into sections each service
  • Difference between country cuisine & city cooking
  • Trained in back-of-house & front-of-house
Norma Finley; bakers; butchers; Myer Mural Hall; Beefeaters’ dinners; Toheroa Soup; Schnapper; cauliflower & béchamel sauce; vegetable soup; caramel crèmes; paprika beef stew; fried bread sauce; Scottish olives; baked apple dumplings; giblet stew; bread & butter pudding; table setting/service; front-of-house; cake decorating;


Career Highlights

  • Sent to work at the Mural Hall Kitchen catering for the directors and in the dining room
  • Working for Mr Myer, with a full domestic service
Myer Mural Hall; Sir Norman Myer’s personal chef; quarters;  


Family cooking memories


Changing Facilities at WAI

  • Separate from other courses, in a different building
  • Servicemen were in another building
  • Main area (red brick building) where all classes were held
  • No exams to complete for the course
Servicemen had an exam

Latrobe Street; bakery section; butchery section; restaurant;


Insights into Women in the Industry during the 1950s

  • Female apprentices came from Mural Hall were the first in WAI history
  • No women commercial cooks were around then
  • Emily Macpherson teachers would come to complete courses
Unusual career choice for a woman; apprentices; domestic cooking; commercial cooks; Emily Macpherson School of Domestic Science;


Interview Concludes


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