Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja has sustained itself at the top of the hospitality industry in Nigeria over the years. Senator Iroegbu writes on how it has used the Kitchen Apprentice programme to improve on its cuisine and create jobs
Since its entry into the Nigerian hospitality industry in 1987, the Transcorp Hilton has continued to dominate as the hotel of choice for the crème d la crème of the Nigeria society. It has remained the top destination for private business meetings, tourist relaxation spots and government functions, all thanks to its strategic innovation.
The dynamism with which the management of the hotel has brought to bear both in its services, cuisines and customer relations have helped to ensure that it continue to thrive against all odds; especially in the emerging security challenges that has threatened the hospitality and tourist industries in the country, especially those within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to the Public Relations Manager, Transcorp Hilton, Mr. Shola Adeyemo; “The key word is innovation; we improve every year to stay ahead of our competitors and ensure that our customers are satisfied”.
Expectedly, the hotel management has come up with various dynamic and innovative ways to maximize the opportunities provided by the ever busy and expanding Nation’s Capital and satisfy its teeming guests and customers.
Recently, the new General Manager, Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Mr. Etienne- Charles Gailliez, while speaking to journalists, unfolded strategic plan that would, according to him, upgrade the hotel to a seven-star service facilities, which will be the first of its kind in West-African sub-region.
Gailliez disclosed that one of his short and mid-term plans is to improve both the services and facilities of the hotel into a seven-star category to satisfy the increasingly sophisticated taste of their customers and stay ahead of competitors.
He said: “I think for the moment seven star hotels is simply just the way we do our service because in the world categories there is no seven star hotels.”
“Yes, we intend to improve the services in this hotel in terms of how we greet the guest, how we welcome the guest after journey, normally the overall guest relation aspect. When we know our clients better because a lot of our clients are really repetitive clients but somehow we always offer the same service to them. How can we pay them (back), how can we go more individual with the people that are staying; some of them are staying two or three days everyday of the week. How do we move to different level? How do we have the business community come together to have a better aspect.”
“We are already reviewing our operations with a view to upgrading to the different levels of service. We will start refurbishment of the hotel including the design and other strategies aimed at making service fluid. We will reposition the outlets to meet demands of our guests to remain the number one hotel in Nigeria. We will also upgrade measures both visible and invisible to protect our guests. We have to show our resilience and go positive. We will still be there to assure our guests that this is the place to stay,” he added.
One of the ways that the foremost hospitality outfit has created a niche for itself and stay afloat in the game is in its creative ways of culinary assemble, which is continuously churned out from its innovative programme-Hilton Kitchen Apprenticeship.
The kitchen apprenticeship programme was introduced in1996 and has since produced five sets of graduates, some of whom have risen to become celebrated Chefs and Executive Managers of various kitchens both within and outside the hotel.
The core objective of the two-year intensive programme, which has continued to attract the hotel’s large customer base has been the training offers to a novice who will later become a world class chef. The training process starts with introduction to basic theories and practice of cooking through to the fundamentals of attaining the height of an international chef.
Interestingly, the programme has been a huge success as the products of 2007 class, Lillian and David are performing well as chefs with Hilton Fujairah and Hilton Abu Dabi, while Godwin the best of the lots is a permanent team member of Transcorp Hilton Abuja. Similarly, the 2008 set had George Edward, the overall best and Joseph Ojor who are already making their marks at Hilton Dubai Jumerah, while one of the six graduates of the 2009 set is working in Seychelles and four others are serving as chefs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Our Kitchen Apprentices Programme is a demonstration of our commitment to Hilton Worldwide Corporate Social Responsibility Travel with Purpose. One of the philosophy’s areas of focus is creating opportunities. We have, through the programme, been able to create a bright blue future for our youths by helping them to reach their full potentials and providing them career pathways for continued personal growth”, Gailliez said.
“We will continue to invest in creating opportunities for careers in hospitality through apprentice programmes that offer basic education and life skills training. I am encouraged by the giant strides the past graduates of the programme are making in the culinary profession in other Hilton Worldwide hotels especially in UAE”, he stated.
Accordingly, the immediate benefit of the innovative cuisine competition is well displayed at the various types of global first class restaurants of the hotel comprising of the traditional Nigerian Bukka Restaurant, the cosmopolitan Zuma Restaurant, the contemporary Capital Bar, and the nature’s worth Fulani Pool Bar.
Speaking to THISDAY, Adeyemo noted that the five finalist of this year’s apprenticeship started over two years of intensive training following recruitment from 400 applicants in 2010 of which 200 candidates were considered qualified for the first basic Aptitude Test.
He explained that only 30 candidates passed the test and were put through further interviews and practical tests out of which 11 candidates fulfilled all the requirements to start the programme.
“After series of practical, tests and examinations, only five candidates survived the rigour till the final assessment. The outcome of tonight’s final practical assessment notwithstanding, the five finalists can be said to have fully grounded in the art of cooking and each of them has deservedly earned a Hilton Diploma”, he said.
Nevertheless, Mr. Tijani AbdulRazaq was adjudged the winner after assessment by independent judges invited by Transcorp Hilton. Other finalists in descending order include Mr. Adebisi Oladunni, Oliver Gabriel, Miss Adaji Ene and Ayuba Umar.
Reacting to his victory, Abdulrazaq said, ‘First, I thank God for this achievement. I’m also grateful to the Executive Chef and the Transcorp Hilton management for creating the program and giving us the opportunity to learn and develop our talents. I sincerely have passion for cooking.”
“You see that the guests are the judges because we do not want to be the judge; and since they are our top customers who usually eats our foods, they are in a better position to give informed but independent and unbiased assessment”, Adeyemo said.
Similarly, one of the judges, Ms Toyin Oke expressed satisfaction with the programme and the culinary innovations at display.
“It was very fulfilling, especially when you see people who ordinarily could never have had such opportunity being rewarded for their dedication, passion, commitment and hard work”, Oke enthused.