Travis Mares has cooked meals for English royalty, worked with celebrity chefs, and run kitchens across Australia.
He believes he wouldn’t have developed the taste for his chosen profession if not for Carinity.
Travis’s life was going off the rails when he enrolled at Carinity Education Glendyne in Hervey Bay as a young teenager.
Coming from a broken family and a “quite disruptive” home life, Travis found solace and “a sense of purpose” in the school’s kitchen.
“Glendyne’s facilities were amazing. You got the chance to cook amazing things. The structure of Glendyne I found so much more productive, especially as I needed extra mentoring and someone to show me a little attention and care,” Travis recalls.
“I had a lot of mentoring at school and I chose the right path. I learned really quickly that life’s a lot better when you’re working towards your goals.
“Towards the end of school, they would ask you what you wanted to be, and I said, ‘I want to be a chef. I want to be a young Gordon Ramsay’.”
Carinity Education continues to provide new opportunities for students to excel in the fields of hospitality and food preparation.
All four of its special assistance schools have commercial kitchens, a vital ingredient in students’ vocational learning.
A new commercial kitchen for hospitality training at Carinity Education Gladstone is part of a $3.2 million upgrade of the school campus.
Previously, students undertaking certificate courses in hospitality had to travel the three-hour round trip to Rockhampton to complete their assessment.
Hospitality students are being guided by cook Ryan King, a Northern Ireland expatriate who has worked in hospitality throughout Europe, south-east Asia and Australia.
He says the new school kitchen, featuring a walk-in fridge/freezer, stainless steel benches, modern equipment and ovens common in most commercial kitchens, will give students “a real head-start with their future career”.
“Having a working commercial kitchen enables students to experience working in the industry, giving them the confidence, knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in hospitality,” Ryan explains.
“The students can gain first-hand skills using modern cooking equipment commonly used in the workplace such as cafés, hotels, resorts and fast-food outlets.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to get hands-on experience using industry-standard equipment, plus it makes cooking for school a lot more enjoyable.”
Carinity Education Gladstone Principal Jane Greenland says student engagement has increased since the introduction of the new commercial kitchen.
“Students can prepare, cook and serve a variety of meals for students, staff and other visitors to the school, and see how the theory components relate to real life situations. This inspires them to do their best whilst in the kitchen,” Jane says.
The school is cooking up more opportunities for students such as catering and apprenticeships working under Ryan.
Hospitality is also one of the most popular vocational learning strands offered at Carinity Education Southside in Brisbane.
Teacher Amanda Roberts says students participate in practical lessons and work experience for front and back-of-house roles in the hospitality industry.
“We simulate our own restaurant here at school and there are opportunities for students to participate in serving at functions held off-site,” Amanda says.
“Hospitality is a wonderful way for students to gain part-time work in order to start earning some money and fuel their independence.”
At Carinity Education Glendyne, Principal Dale Hansen, one of Travis’s mentors at school, says while most students “have the aptitude to cook” some are initially apprehensive about studying hospitality.
“When they realise hospitality is one of the largest employment pathways in Australia, and a skill and trade that can take them to all corners of the globe, it becomes desirable,” he says.
After graduating as the Dux of the school, Travis completed his apprenticeship as a chef in Uluru, where he prepared meals for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Ten years into his culinary career, Travis has worked in every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania.
He has returned to Hervey Bay to work as sous chef at Black Bear, a popular restaurant owned by My Kitchen Rules winners Dan and Steph Mulheron.
“When you’re in a kitchen, and even when we were students at school, it feels like a small family working together as a team,” Travis says.
“It’s that camaraderie that I missed from my childhood that I love. It makes you feel like you’re wanted.”