Arguably one of the most stressful jobs going, and definitely one that you can’t just walk into. It takes years of grafting, motivation and sheer passion to get there. Which Is why I was interested in talking to Travis, a freelance chef in Cornwall. This helped shed insight into what it’s like to work in the industry.
After spending the winter in Vietnam, we found ourselves looking for a space to call home for the summer. Luckily, we came across a modern shared house at the top of town which fit perfectly. The journey back from the airport seemed to take a lifetime. We made it into our new place in the early hours, keen to get some shuteye. We drifted off to sleep clutching a glass of wine and snored long into the night; well at least I did…
A strong, Australian alarm clock, in the form of Travis Bulbeck woke us up. Himself and his fiance, Sophie, unpacked their suitcases into their new home. Over the next few weeks since moving in it was clear to see that Trav had a keen eye for cooking. The cramped kitchen space and limited cooking utensils didn’t stop him. He would be constantly creating dishes that would blow your taste-buds off, whereas mine would blow for all the wrong reasons. Seeing myself as someone who would mess up even a piece of toast, I thought it would be best to ask him how he became a freelance chef, rather than asking for tips.
Travis’s roots into cooking go all the way back to his youth. Like many passions, the origin came from the father figures of the family. His old man was and still is, a keen cook, with his passion seeming to rub off on Travis. Growing up, Trav had found it hard to enjoy school. The constant exams and educational lessons seeming to distract him from what he actually wants to do, surfing and cooking. Luckily for him, a close family friend opened up a restaurant in his hometown. This opportunity was too good to turn down.
A good solid number of years working in the restaurant helped Travis grow his confidence. Working with his belief about working hard and pushing forward, he managed to earn his place in the kitchen. Influenced by the food cultures around Australia, Travis picked up a passion for the Asian style of cooking. He started experimenting with spices that bring the flavours of the world to your taste-buds.
Becoming chef isn’t the easiest of career choices, especially if you want to become a freelance chef. The high-intensity workloads and the long draining shifts can take its toll on the toughest of people. Admitting that you sometimes feel that you’re on top of the world, only to then be brought crashing back down to earth in a fiery shitstorm, Travis made a choice. He felt that after 10 years of battling through this yo-yo of emotions, that a change of scenery is needed to keep his passion burning.
Now, a change of scenery for some might mean hopping to the next town over, not for Trav. He made the giant leap all across the globe to the small, yet popular fishing town of St.Ives. Situated near the end of the coast, St.ives offers an endless supply of fresh local fish and produce. The vast countryside offers the freshest meat and poultry. Unlike other towns in Cornwall, St.Ives relies heavily on the tourism industry. During the summer, local businesses experience there highest earnings. During the brisk winter chills, the town looks more like the silent hill.
Throwing himself straight into the deep end, Travis landed himself a job at a cafe on St.Ives most popular beach, Porthmeor.
Welcomed by his good friend and fellow Aussie, Cam Jennings, Trav began to work in the kitchen. Straight away he started enhancing his skills and adapting the Cornish cuisine. A stark difference to the Asian inspired food back home. He started feeling the long hours having an impact on his personal life. After two years of solid working and without visiting his family, a well-earned visit back to his hometown was in order. This time he was joined by his new partner, Sophie.
Visiting his family and being away from work was a breath of fresh air. He started to take a wider look at his career, wondering if being in the kitchen during long hours is really for him. After 4 months of relaxing, enjoying time with family and dealing with those visa nightmares, Travis and Sophie made the long journey back to St.Ives.
Becoming a freelance Chef.
Travis arrived back to Cornwall with a new attitude and perspective on what he wanted to do. Ditching the long draining hours of the kitchen for the fresh Cornish air, Trav set his sights on becoming a freelance chef. Almost immediately he started his new role at Woodfired Canteen. Here, he boosted his skills, even more, learning how to cook on an open fire during Woodfired Canteen events up and down the country.
Learning how to smoke brisket and pork for 12 hours on an open fire is a hell of a lot more exciting than being stuck in the kitchen for hours on end.
Cooking on a roaring open fire takes a lot more skill than you think. Finding the hot and cold spots, learning how heavy to go with the amount of coal added a whole new level to his career. Woodfired Canteen opened a whole new chapter for Travis. Run by Ben and Sam Quinn, Woodfired Canteen cooks ‘Good Food for Good People’. From cooking for hundreds of people at one of the biggest festivals to unique weddings off the Cornish coasts, Woodfired Canteen put their customers at the forefront of their work.
This whole new perspective is taken from Woodfired Canteen allow Travis to find the perfect balance. This re-ignited his passion for cooking, which inspired him to pack in his full-time kitchen shifts and become a freelance chef. A decision in which he has not looked back on.
Going from finishing dishes with those edible flowers to cooking fresh local food packed full of flavour has helped re-ignite my passoin for cooking.
Cornwall has strong local values. Ask any Cornishman about the times before the people from ‘Up North’ started to come to visit, and they’d have you listening to their story for weeks! These values are what helps Cornwall thrive. The local and sustainable produce that Cornwall has to offer also inspires Travis in his dishes. Being a strong believer of supporting local businesses, he explains why he chooses local over corporate.
If you choose to shop with these big supermarkets over the local companies, then you’re taking money away from the local businesses.
Travis is now eager to put his new found skills to the test. The dream of being a freelance chef has turned more into a reality thanks to Woodfired Canteen. The way they work and the passion they have has given him a whole new outlook. Favouring the outdoor cooking to the intense kitchen, Travis puts his clients first. Creating a menu that includes all your favourite things, but has his own unique twist.
If you are looking for a freelance chef for private catering or special event over Christmas, you can contact Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on 07943100210.