The Oduduwa meeting room of the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel was filled to capacity with friends, clients, suppliers and staff who had gathered to celebrate two of its outstanding employees that have worked commendably over the years.
It was an evening filled with excitement for both Alex Mwaura, the Executive Chef and Cornelius Onwah, the Human Resources Manager of the hotel as they took time out to appreciate friends who had come to bid them farewell from the industry after 10 years dedicated service with the hotel.
The event kick started with the welcoming of guests by the General Manager, Southern Sun Ikoyi, Mark Loxley. He commended both staff for the achievements garnered over the years with the hotel and the dedication and professionalism with which they work with the brand. The duo were later dressed in a send forth Yoruba attire by their colleagues.
Loxley who has been in the hospitality industry for 30 years said it is the first time in his career to have had the opportunity and privilege to work with the same human resource manager and executive chef for 10 years adding that it was a great achievement.
Describing Alex, he said: “Chef Alex was transferred from our hotel in Dubai 10 years ago. And he has made an immense contribution to Southern Sun Ikoyi. We are not just talking kitchen training, management articulation, dedication, the ability to upscale and provide great quality food, consistency and hygienic practices. Any of you who know the hotel industry will understand that the most important individual in any hotel especially a four or five star business hotel anywhere in the world, is your executive Chef. Because the executive chef is the backbone of the business. And thankfully as we all know our hotel with Alex and his team have created an exceptional reputation and by good fortune we have had a great executive chef for the last 10 years.”
“One of the most striking features about Alex is his temperament. And normally an executive chef is quite a temperamental individual in any hotel department and everybody keeps a safe distance from him. But Alex has exhibited gentleman like qualities at all times and absolute professionalism.”
Alex Mwaura for the past 15 years, has been an executive chef in branded hotels located in various countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Dubai and now Nigeria.
Loxley stated that Alex is not just a chef that is preoccupied with making delicious foods but often concerned in getting feedback from guests during meal hours.
He added that Alex will be returning to Kenya to pursue is feature endeavour.
Speaking on Cornelius, the Southern Sun general manager said he was the first Nigerian to be employed by the hotel.
She said: “Cornelius is actually the very first Nigerian gentleman I employed at this hotel. He was employed during the pre-opening phases of the hotel. And when you start new hotel, in project development you first get your HR manager in place and from there you start to recruit. I must say the quality of the HR in this hotel has been great.
“So time Cornelius comes as a very unassuming, reserved and articulate individual. A very quiet professional thinking man at all times. I must say that over the years the integrity, the trust factor of Cornelius has been in place. And whether it is a staff issue of something that relates to the environment, labour relations matter, staffing issue, Cornelius has always approached things in a very quiet manner.”
“These gentlemen have fulfilled integral roles in the business module and this business like any other labour intensive business is not made up of one individual, it is a team effort and a collective one. It is the key ingredient. And the two positions, I am very pleased to mention that we have decent succession plan put in place so that the roles of the functionality of these two positions will remain firmly intact and the business module will grow from strength to strength.”
Responding, Alex said: “Nigeria is very dynamic, the culture is very dynamic and when somebody comes into the country he has quite a lot to learn. The food was one of the most amazing things that I had to really learn. I remember the first time when we came, we decided to do the Nigerian buffet, and I almost lost my job.”
On his part, Cornelius said: “The job of the HR Manager in every organisation is a very difficult one. And I am one person you will love to hate. When the pendulum swings to your side I am the best person to make friends with but by the time you are invited to the HR office then your countenance is no longer friendly. The HR job very, very interesting and I tell people if you are not passionate about people you can’t do it. . This industry is very, very volatile. It has been the grace of God.”