I was having a busy week doing restaurant reviews and attending meetings. It has been a while since I interviewed someone. Lucky for me, The Wine and Food Review had an interview with the Director of Operations Fairmont, The Norfolk. My photographer Bundi accompanied me and we got there at 10.30am. My interview took place at the Cin Cin bar and Priyan got there at around 10.32am.
He looked rather sharp with his well pressed suit. He is very friendly and affable. This was my chance to know how he does it and what it mean to be a director of operations of such a reputable brand.
Here is the Q&A.
Tell me about yourself
I’m the Director of Operations, Fairmont The Norfolk. I am very passionate about the hospitality industry.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
I wanted to be a pilot but later on, a relative pitched the idea to me that I could be great in the food, wine and hospitality industry. I thought I could give it a shot. I developed a penchant for this industry and I have never looked back
How has your career journey been like?
It has not been easy and I didn’t get to a leadership position overnight. I have had to work very hard. In fact, by the age of 15 years I was washing plates in a restaurant. I have also worked as a bartender and later a sommelier in Dubai. I have also learned about cigars and I even went to Cuba for a cigar competition. It has always been a great experience for me and I take the time to learn as much as I can in whatever position I am. I won the best bartender award in 2004 and later I got to be the Food and Beverage Manager in Fairmont Dubai. I’ve made significant career moves over the years. I received a call from my manager that I should report to Kenya to fill the Director of Operations slot and here I am. I came to Kenya in 2012.
What are your thoughts on the Kenyan Food & Wine scene?
The Kenya food and wine scene is growing and it is great that I have been able to witness this tremendous growth in my own establishment as well. The local talent has great potential if encouraged or given the right support. This evident from our own bartender, who I helped nurtured and is now one of the Best Mixologist in Kenya with Awards to reinforce. His exceptional skills which he learnt on the job training have taken him as far as South Africa for further refinement.
Describe your typical work week.
It’s rather hectic being the director of operations. It is my job to make sure that the hotel is running smoothly and that the guests and clients get quality food and service. I get to the office not later than 7.30am every day. I do my rounds in the restaurant and I check that everything is in order. At 8.30 I talk to clients and I ensure that they are well taken care of. At 9-11am I have a daily sales meeting with my team. From 11am I catch up on emails and any work and then continue the rest of the day making sure that all operations are in check.
Being in such a challenging position, how do you make it work?
I love working in the Hospitality industry. Work has its challenges but I have great experience and I always take the time to make sure that the clients are happy and that we maintain the Fairmont Brand standards. In my post there’s very little time for rest or relaxation. It must come from the heart and one has to have passion and drive. I love what I do.
Have you organized many events in Kenya?
Yes I have organized very many events because I believe that is one way to elevate the scene in Kenya. I have organized food & Wine Pairing Dinners, Wine and Cheese events, Skyy Vodka Night and Babes and Bubbles among others. I love food and wine dinners and I love it when I invite a sommelier /winemaker to talk to people as opposed to just having a simple dinner. I also ensure that the food and wine list is carefully crafted. If I am having a dinner, I craft the food and wine list weeks prior to the event to to ensure guest are offered the best food pairing experience.
Tell me about Babes and Bubbles event?
This is an event for the professional young lady who is looking for a sophisticated and relaxed environment to unwind and catch up with her girlfriends. The night features flowing Champagne Taittinger Nocturne and accompanied by delectable hors d’oeuvres, with a DJ on board playing Café Del Mar fusions. Served at the sleek Taittinger Champagne Bar
How do you unwind?
I love to cook. I even bought a Jua Kali jiko. I love Kenyan cuisine. I enjoy eating Nyama Choma and Ugali. I also love dining in other restaurants and watching the food network. It entertains as well as relaxes me.
How has your overall experience with the Kenyan people been like?
I love Kenya. I have enjoyed my stay here because Kenyans are very warm at heart. My staff also get the job done and they give genuine service by greeting people with a smile and they understand the client needs. Kenyan people are also motivated.
What would you tell anyone aspiring to be like you?
I would tell people not to second guess themselves and once you know what you want. Go for it, set goals and make sure you achieve them.
Photos- Bundi Anassi Photography