Staff Profile: Swan Trade Training Centre’s ‘Chef Rob’

Swan’s Rob Do Carmo began his professional career at the Hyatt Perth, moved to the Hyatt in Singapore, and opened the first Dome restaurant in Singapore. He then moved to London to enjoy stints in the uber-cool restaurants of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and the creator of ‘fusion cooking’, Peter Gordon.

But life in the hospitality industry was not always plain sailing for the man known to Swan students as ‘Chef Rob’.

“I was rejected by Hungry Jacks at a young age! I could not get a start in the industry for a long time,” remembers Rob this week.

Rob’s Portuguese roots saw him grow up in Cockburn and regularly attend the local soccer ground – as a ball boy to the senior team and as a helper in the canteen.

“My first memory is helping out with the hot dogs and the food there. At the end of the day, I would be rewarded with a hot dog and a drink. I just thought it was fantastic! I knew that I wanted to be around different cultures, travel, and be involved with food and hospitality at a very young age.”

While Rob was honing his skills in the kitchens of Singapore, his best friend gave his life to God after a series of life-changing events. Rob was sceptical, and really questioned his friend about it.

“I had an awareness of God from a young age. I grew up in the Catholic church, but there were some parts of it that I could not come to grips with. When my friend made a commitment, it took me six years to wrestle with the concept of a relationship with God. I’m a slow learner like that, I guess!”

Rob’s trademark smile and task-oriented mindset saw him excel in the gastronomic world of London’s Soho district. However, some parts of the London life contrasted with a yearning in Rob for the life of someone contemplating a Christian lifestyle. The regular criminal incidents in the city and alternative lifestyles that befitted a ’24-hour-a-day’ metropolis brought Rob to the stark reality – going forward, a choice of lifestyle would need to be made.

“I remember being in a church in London and responding to an altar call. I can also remember taking the London bus to work each day and reading a really small version of the New Testament. That was the beginning.”

Subsequent work stops in Portugal and Canada preceded the long trek home as Rob took twelve months to journey through the Middle East, Africa and India.

“I remember having the feeling that God was protecting me on that journey. There were some fantastic experiences, some scary experiences, but I knew that God was with me throughout.”

Coming home to Perth, Rob now focuses on his church (C3 in Hepburn Heights), his lovely family and his students.

“The course we run is for Year 11 and 12 students, and they are in a paid traineeship where they learn while they work,” says Rob as he sorts the day’s tasks out for his students.

“This course helps with the practical sides of cooking and builds life skills and confidence. I love to work in this area because I feel like this was a void when I was growing up that would have helped me enormously,” says Rob.

“We want to encourage our students to gain experience in different kitchens, learn from different chefs and pursue different avenues in the hospitality industry. Find out what you like and what you don’t like. Front-of-house or Back-of-house. Find out what your life is going to look like,” says Rob.

“I also like the idea of being able to speak to young people about the things that are important in life. It’s the core people in your life that will influence you in your life choices and shape your outlook on life. For me, that message was simple: Jesus died for me to live, to have life in abundance,” says Rob.

Rob will also be the man responsible for sorting the 500+meals for the gathered crowd at the upcoming SCEA Celebration Day on Monday, 25 July.

How will he manage it all?

“I can’t do it by myself! We could never achieve something like that without competent students – and it is amazing to see these young people grow when we have them here at Swan. So, it’s going to be a real team effort.”

Chef Rob Do Carmo working with STTC student Jezzi Hatch – HGT ‘Taste Of The Future’ Competition Winner and now a full-time chef at The Little Bay Restaurant, Perth.

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