For Travis Giles, culinary arts is not only his career path, but it is also his way of life. Highly experienced in the industry, Giles is department chair of the White Mountains Community College hospitality and culinary arts program, and an alum who graduated in 1995.
Giles, who has over 35 years in the industry, started working in a kitchen at the age of 14. It was his unexpected role of running a local seafood restaurant in Maine at 17 years old that solidified his professional path in culinary arts.
“I made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “I worked really hard and did the best that I possibly could at that time. I learned a lot on the job, but I was very critical of myself and wanted to be the best that I could.”
The drive to succeed and recognizing his mistakes sealed his decision to go to culinary school. Giles said he chose WMCC for several reasons, which he now sees through the lens of professor as the drivers for current students as well. The most noted reasons students choose WMCC are the convenience, affordability and the caliber of education.
“I had the option of going to other schools but I chose WMCC because it’s affordable,” said Giles.
WMCC’s culinary arts program, which started in 1966, is the longest-running program of its kind in New England. The college offers two associate degree and certificate programs in the field, culinary arts and baking and pastry arts, and both help set students up for a successful culinary career. The baking and pastry arts program was developed in 2007 based on the demands in the industry during a time when bakeries were popping up all over. This niche program was developed by Giles and has been voted the best baking and pastry arts program in New Hampshire.
As part of WMCC’s culinary programs, students receive over 1,200 hours of handson experience, including a required 400- hour internship at a local establishment. In addition, WMCC has partnered with the Omni Mount Washington Resort to offer a three-year culinary apprenticeship program providing mentorship and training for apprentices while they are working and being paid.
“Through the internship program, we’ve assisted students with work at local businesses, including the Polish Princess and Smoking Teas in Lancaster, Wildcat Tavern and Red Fox in Jackson, and of course the apprenticeship program with Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods,” said Giles.
Both Giles and his program colleague Greg Worthen are former chefs with a combined 60 years of experience, giving students a unique perspective in and around the kitchen, he said.
“Part of our job is to make sure the students are always learning and being challenged to better their skills,” said Giles. “We identify the skill set of our students coming in and cater their educational experience to be the best it can be.”
This fall, WMCC culinary students will also be assisting in The Bistro, WMCC’s on-site cafeteria, with a new Meals IncludED initiative, which is the first of its kind, to help enrolled students combat food insecurities, which can be a barrier to academic completion.