Much has been written in this magazine recently about the emergence of “lifestyle” hotels and their newly found niche in our industry. So today, I will describe my “lifestyle” career, which has taken me on some pretty amazing adventures over these past 40 years since I packed my chefs uniform, my white clogs, and my Swiss chef’s knives, and boarded a B.O.A.C. airplane at Edinburgh airport on a freezing cold day in 1975, on my way to my first “lifestyle” job in Kenya, home of Elsa the Lion, the Snows of Kilimanjaro, and the Jacaranda Hotel.
This landmark Nairobi Hotel became my kitchen and my home for the next two years, before I once again changed my “lifestyle,” moving to the hot and humid Mombasa coast, and Diani Beach’s Alliance Hotels, owned and operated at that time by another wandering Scotsman, where I stayed and played for another eight glorious years, eventually becoming group executive chef, and then group F&B manager.
Since then, I have wandered, traveled, cooked, studied, learned and progressed to bigger kitchens and bigger offices in bigger hotels in many other exciting “lifestyle” destinations, including Nigeria, Antigua, China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Bahrain, Dubai, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where my lifelong lifestyle adventure came to a sudden dead stop earlier this year as the result of an (oil) liquidity crisis that devastated many businesses in that troubled desert Kingdom, including the hospitality industry, where most of the construction cranes have now stopped swinging.
So here I am in Manila, where the latest promotional jingle from the ministry of tourism exclaims “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” a tagline promise I hope to put to the test and write about over the coming months and perhaps years. Inbound tourism is booming here, especially from the untapped Far East and Middle East markets, from where we see a steady stream of wealthy honeymooners, luxury shoppers, casino high rollers, adventurous divers, and adventurous tourists in search of fun in the sun.
Why am I writing about this? Well, my youngest son John, who spent his early years with me and the family in Bangkok, Seoul, Dubai and Riyadh hotel rooms, suites and apartments, recently revealed to me that he was considering enrolling in a four-year college course in hospitality management. He asked, “Dad, did you enjoy your journey over these past 40 years?” I replied, quoting Miley Cyrus from her “Hannah Montana” movie, “Son, it ain’t about the journey, it’s all about the ride.”
While I cannot promise my son, or other young men and women embarking upon their own hospitality journeys a “lifestyle career.” I can promise them all that if they work hard, and keep on learning every single day of their careers, then they too will enjoy an amazing ride.