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The recipe for success

As a 40-something-year veteran of the hospitality industry — most of which have been spent overseas from my native Scotland — and as one of only two foreign hotel general managers in Karachi, Pakistan, I am delighted and honored to be able to share my stories via this new blog. I hope that I can convey a lighter side of Pakistan and Pakistanis to that often portrayed on television screens and in the movies.

One of the parts of my job I most enjoy here as general manager is to meet, greet and then interact daily with the local catering college students who spend up to six months in our kitchens as an integral part of their culinary diploma course. The last group of 20 male and female youngsters arrived at 9 a.m. sharp on February 1 — resplendent in their well-starched college-issued chef’s whites — and were treated to a special welcome breakfast before I welcomed them not only as the General Manager, but also as someone who had started my own career dressed in starched whites and a tall white hat in the steaming hot kitchens of a busy Edinburgh restaurant more than 40 years ago.

This revelation always seems to make the students — many of whom are teenagers — feel at ease, and in some cases, perhaps even inspired, as I take the time to tell them all that whether they start in the kitchen, the restaurant, the bell desk, or in the sales office, all of them have the opportunity to progress to the GM’s office, an assertion that very often causes hands to shoot up to ask the question: How can we do that?

This is the moment when I carefully pull out a 40-year-old crumpled piece of paper from my pocket on which is written “GG’s Recipe for Success,” which is in fact a collection of notes I had quickly scribbled down during my first interview in 1972. I then go on to tell them that their recipe for success as student chefs with us requires them to always remember that same one magic ingredient or key word which will matter most at the beginning and at the end of their of their training: RESPECT.

  • RESPECT for the food products they are given to prepare
  • RESPECT for the owner’s profit requirement as it relates to any unnecessary wastage of these food products
  • RESPECT for the proper preparation and cooking process of their food products
  • RESPECT for the proper presentation of their finished food products
  • RESPECT for customers’ high expectations of the food products they are about to receive

I tell them all that if they can follow these simple rules — while at the same time respecting their teachers, their colleagues and themselves — then our doors will be open for all of them to join us as fast-track apprentice chefs at the end of their college courses.

Over the past six years here in Karachi I have welcomed and said goodbye to more than 200 such talented youngsters, many of whom are now working in the kitchens of some of the best hotels and restaurants around the world, a fact which makes me and my team of dedicated culinary trainers happy and proud to be a small part of a process that produces something good and positive from Pakistan during these troubled times. 

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