1940 William Angliss Food Trades School opens

R.A.A.F. members undergoing training to be cooks at the William Angliss Food Trades School c1941. State Library of Victoria

When I was writing the book based on this timeline, I spent some time in the library of the William Angliss Institute in Latrobe Street, Melbourne. Particularly fascinating was the collection of ephemera – brochures, advertising material, recipe leaflets and product manuals from decades past. For all things food history, the Institute was a natural place to start, as it had been offering courses in food preparation and service for more than 75 years.

The William Angliss Institute of TAFE (Technical and Further Education) was founded as the William Angliss Food Trades School in 1939 and accepted its first students in September 1940. It is named after Sir William Angliss who, in 1938,  offered a donation of £20,000 to the State Government “for the establishment of a specialised technical school to provide training for youths in the technical aspects of the food trade”.

Born in Worcestershire, England, William Charles Angliss began his working life as a London butcher, migrating in the early 1880s to New York and then to Australia. After working in Brisbane and Sydney, he opened a butcher’s shop in North Carlton, Melbourne, in 1886. From there, he expanded his business to become a dominant figure in the local and export meat trade and acquired pastoral properties in the eastern states. In 1939, he sold his meat business to the British firm, Vesteys, but retained his cattle stations and many other business interests.

Angliss was a member of Victoria’s Legislative Council for 27 years before he was knighted in 1939. At one point probably Australia’s richest man, he was involved in many charitable organisations. The trade school was a natural extension of his life in the meat trade, with butchery among the courses offered.  An article in The Age in June 1940 described the new school as “the first of its kind in the Empire” and gave more details of how it would operate.

By the ruling brought in towards the end of last year, all apprentices in the food trades must serve part of their term in the school; those in the baking industry, for example, must put in eight hours a week at the school for four years – half of the time coming from their ordinary working house, and half from their leisure time…Four departments are to be provided – butchery, bread making, pastry cooking (including cake making) and general cookery for chefs; but a fifth course in hotel and restaurant management, it is hoped, will be added soon after the school is established.

With the coming of World War II, the training of cooks for the military became an important function of the new William Angliss school. The Age article noted that the school would be cooking for the Air Force training depot, which was next door.

In 1940, newspapers reported that the William Angliss Food Trades School was “…designed for the instruction of men in such things as the making of small goods, cooked meats, bakery and confectionery for trade as well as for institutional cookery”. By 1959, however, the school was conceding that women might also have a future in the industry. “If a girl is a good cook she can go anywhere in the world,” Chef W. G. Zimmerman, the chief instructor for the hotel and kitchen department, told The Age.

Today, the William Angliss Institute has, in addition to its main campus in Melbourne, a campus in Sydney, offices in several other Australian cities, and joint ventures in China, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. There are courses in foods, tourism, hospitality and event management. The in-house restaurant in Melbourne runs a series of Great Chef events, where students work with a well-known chef to produce and serve a multi-course meal to paying customers.

Sir William Angliss died in 1957 at the age of 92.

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