Wallaby Organic, an Australian-inspired, slow-crafted premium yogurt from Certified B Corporation Danone North America, announced the launch of the Wallaby Culinary Dream Contest to empower chefs who dream of opening their own culinary business.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the restaurant and hospitality industries have been in a state of crisis, Broomfield, Colo.-based Wallaby Organic said. Restaurants that managed to stay afloat are now facing new challenges, with nearly half of establishments operating with 20% less staff than usual.

Pandemic aside, starting out in this industry comes with a set of challenges inextricably linked to capital availability. Factoring in significant culinary school debt and an average starting salary of under $50,000 for those with a culinary arts degree, it takes years of hustle and financial backing to open up a restaurant, which on average totals $375,000, the brand noted.

“The issues facing the restaurant industry are significant, and we wanted to do our part to help aspiring chefs achieve their dreams,” said Lauren Baum, senior brand manager at Wallaby Organic. “Wallaby is looking forward to giving back to food makers and food lovers — or those with a passion for cooking — because without them, we wouldn’t be here. Over the years, chefs have supported Wallaby so much, and we want to do everything we can to return the favor.”

The Wallaby Culinary Dream Contest will $15,000 each to two current or former culinary students to help them achieve their dream of opening up their own restaurant, food truck or catering business. To further support contest winners, Wallaby Organic said it teamed up with Chef Antonia Lofaso, a French Culinary Institute graduate, cookbook author, television personality and owner of three LA-based restaurants. A lover of Wallaby Organic herself, Lofaso will provide a virtual mentoring session to contest winners, offering advice and counsel on how to run and/or start a culinary business — from selecting a location to developing a menu and hiring staff to everything in between.

“As a culinary school graduate, chef and restaurant owner, I know how hard the road to success in this industry can be,” said Lofaso. “Advocating for and championing culinary students, chefs and restaurateurs — especially after eighteen months of turmoil — is so near and dear to my heart, and I’m proud to do it alongside Wallaby, a like-minded brand committed to using business as a force for good.”

The Wallaby Culinary Dream Contest is a manifestation of Wallaby Organic’s commitment to facilitating success stories similar to its own, by empowering and celebrating all food makers and food lovers — the chefs, students, amateur foodies and seasoned pros — on their journey to achieving their dreams and doing what they love, the brand said.

To be eligible for the Wallaby Culinary Dream Contest, applicants must be at least 18 years old and a current culinary student or culinary school graduate within the past 10 years. To enter, applicants must submit a 200-word write-up about their love of cooking and culinary dreams and goals, plus one original creative recipe featuring Wallaby Organic yogurt. The contest runs from 9:30 a.m. EST on Aug. 24, 2021, to 10:00 a.m. EST on Sept. 13, 2021. All details are available at https://wallabyculinarydreamcontest.com.