Chef Travis Hawthorne visits culinary arts classes

Chef Travis Hawthorne visits culinary arts classes

Linnea Kennedy and Ashley Chase

From dropping out of college to being seriously injured in the marines, Chef Travis Hawthorne has taken many steps to get to where he is today. However, his experiences have lead him to his dream job, and he wouldn’t trade any of them. His path to culinary success started in his childhood.

“Both of my parents were cooks growing up, so I spent a lot of time in the kitchen from a very early age – about four or five years old,” Hawthorne said. “My mom and dad are both great cooks as well as both sets of grandparents. I’ve always enjoyed really good food, eating out, and trying new foods.”

Travis Hawthorne, a trainer at Escoffier, recently visited Mrs. Pomerantz’s culinary arts class. When Hawthorne grew up, he attended UT, but quickly decided that college was not the right fit for him. Instead, he chose to become a Marine, and worked for 14 years in that field until he was injured and forced to retire early. Not wanting to give up on the employed life just yet, Hawthorne decided to pursue his culinary passion and enrolled in the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

“We cooked everyday,” Hawthorne said. “Everybody cooked, everybody cleaned, and there was very little classroom instruction as far as reading and having lectures given to you. I tell people all the time, if I wanted to be lectured, if I wanted to read, if I wanted to watch somebody else cook – I could stay at home, watch Food Network, and then go to the public library and check out some culinary books. I wanted to cook, I wanted hands on, so I went to Escoffier, which was 95 percent kitchen time, 5 percent lecture. It was absolutely wonderful and I would recommend it to anybody who’s pursuing a career in culinary arts.”

As Hawthorne spoke on the many advantages of the esteemed Escoffier Culinary School, he described why their chefs are superior to others.

“They’re not, ‘Hey, I went to school for culinary arts in college and I got a degree in Hospitality of Restaurant Food and Management.’ They’ve actually worked in the industry and some of our chefs have opened restaurants in Seattle or New York City. We’ve even got a couple of chefs that have opened restaurants on the international level or work for large hotel chains (i.e. the Ritz Carlton hotel chain). We’ve got them from all walks of life. We’ve got Italian backgrounds, we’ve got Asian backgrounds; we’ve got a chef from the Galapagos Islands and he’s absolutely wonderful. I’m talking lifetimes of experience just between the staff that we have there.”

Chef Hawthorne has definitely had his fair share of experience in the culinary world. However, he still claims to be unable to pick a favorite dish.

“People ask chefs all the time what their favorite dishes are. I could never nail it down to one specific dish, but I can tell you my favorite cuisine and that’s about as far as I can go because there’s just so much out there. There’s just so many different things to try and so many variations but if I could narrow it down to my top three it would be Japanese food – that is my all time favorite. I love Japanese cuisine and it’s a two way tie for second place between Mexican- not Tex Mex but actual traditional Mexican cuisine- and Cajun cuisine. Those are my top three but Japanese is by and large my absolute favorite.”

Despite the fact that Hawthorne has worked in the culinary industry for many years, he still has dreams for the future, and hopes to further his cooking career.

“As soon as my oldest one finishes up high school and she goes off to college, we’re going to downsize our house, move out west, and eventually I’m planning on opening my own restaurant. I will probably open a Cajun restaurant. I have a lot of Cajun influence on my dad’s side of the family, so I’ve always been partial to the Cajun cuisine and seafood. My wife’s parents are commercial fishermen, she’s really big into seafood, I love seafood, so we’re thinking Cajun. A steady supply of fresh seafood from the in laws-it’s perfect.”

However, despite Hawthorne’s aspirations for the future, he’s extremely happy right where he is. He is currently employed by Escoffier to travel around to different high schools and teach culinary arts students how to cook various dishes, which is how he ended up at Vandegrift.

“I’m working from 8:00 to 4:30-5:00 at the latest. I’m home every night, so now I get to see the recitals, I get to go to the soccer games, the football games, the cheerleading competitions, whereas before it was, ‘Daddy’s working a double on Saturday, the executive chef needs a day off, so I’m gonna be at the restaurant all day.’ It’s really nice having the schedule I have now working for the culinary school. I get to spend much more time with my family. We’re a very active family-three beautiful children, wonderful wife.”

Although Hawthorne does appreciate the schedule that his job gives him, he claims that that is not his primary reason for doing what he does.

“The big thing is talking to people, influencing them, having them listen [that] it’s not just this. It doesn’t have to be that way and even if you think it has to be that way, you always need to plan because life just happens. Things will happen to you that will be out of your control so you need other ideas, something else you would enjoy doing.”