Transitioning from cost focused to experience focused human resource services is effective for enhancing productivity, drive, adoption and delivery of differential customer experience. At Southern Sun Ikoyi, the leading business and leisure hotel, which is nestled in the heart of Lagos continues in its value-adding perspective by firstly recrafting the experience level of its employees, which ultimately impacts on positive experiences for its many customers.
In this interview, Birtus Kukah John, one of the hotel’s pioneering staff who is now a Commis 1 level Kitchen Chef, recently returned from a one-year training program at the prestigious Christina Martin Culinary Art Studio in George, South Africa. Bitrus shares positive experiences of his training and how this ultimately impacts on the delivering quality service to every guest at the hotel.
What is the background to your career and your experience so far at Southern Sun Ikoyi?
My name is Bitrus Kukah John, I work in the Kitchen at Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel at the Commis 1 level. I was employed as a Kitchen Steward at the hotel’s inception in February 2009 and moved up through the ranks to the main Kitchen and in my current role. This promotion came just after I completed my Commis Chef training and it has really marked the beginning of my culinary journey at the hotel which has been exciting so far. Prior to joining Southern Sun Ikoyi, I worked with a hotel in Kaduna and Abuja as a Waiter. My foray into the hospitality industry was just by chance. I had graduated from Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic Zaria, with a National Diploma in General Agriculture and wanted to get busy and be productively engaged and so when the opportunity came, I did not hesitate to take on the challenge.
What are the key functions of your job role as Commis 1 at the hotel?
As a Commis Chef like any other position in the Hotel, my role is very important because we all work as a team within the service chain. The Kitchen department in any hotel is very key and so our functions and relevance cannot be overemphasized. I am particularly tasked with maintaining hygiene standards, ensuring clean food preparation areas, also ensuring that equipment function properly, also that work surfaces and serving areas are safe and particularly, that sanitary food handling practices and standards are strictly adhered to.
How is your role significant to the success of excellent customer experience at the hotel?
The importance of my role in elevating the customer experience at our hotel became clearer to me following my yearlong training at the Christina Martin Culinary School Art Studio in George, in South Africa. Working and schooling together with other colleagues from other regions really challenged my career and thought processes and has quite evidently made me a better chef since my return. Now I am more confident in my abilities as a Chef, paying better attention to details particularly relating to health and safety, diet and nutrition and the quality of produce from our suppliers. Also ensuring cost-effectiveness in meal preparations which all add up to guaranteeing value for spend to our customers and ensuring that they are pleased with the overall dining experience at our hotel.
How do you intend to give back, particularly to your team members at the hotel?
This training has awakened a new zeal in me. The desire to take my career to a whole new level is very exciting and this will include taking on mentoring roles and being an inspiration to my colleagues. The training was quite extensive and intensive and as I continue under the supervision of both the Chef de Partie and Executive Chef, imparting knowledge to my colleagues about the new techniques and modern ways of cookery I have learned is key for me. I have begun doing this during rotation periods through various sections in the kitchen such as overseeing sauce, vegetables, fish, butchery etc. I share new and more effective methods of getting the job done with my colleagues as I go through each section.
What are your future aspirations?
Well, my recently concluded training in South Africa at the renowned culinary school, Christina Martin Culinary Art Studio in George, South Africa, is accredited and affiliated to the well-known City & Guilds of London (C&G). Thus, the certificates we earn at the school are recognised globally. For me, this is great as it gives me an added confidence about my skills. Since deciding on this career path of the Chef/Cookery business, the trainings I have learned, has exposed me to vast opportunities which seem limitless. I strongly believe that there is still so much for me to learn and do and I intend to carry on into the future all that I have learned and just as I have done, in the past 9 years at Southern Sun Ikoyi.