After over 15 years in the industry, Chef Alicia Giliomee is certainly the right person to head up the Professional Cookery and Culinary Arts Department at Capital Hotel School. We chatted to the chef about how she got into the hospitality industry, important lessons, and her style of training.

When did you join Capital Hotel School and what has your career journey in the industry been so far?

I’ve been with Capital Hotel School since 2013.  As for my career journey, I was trained in the Classic French traditions at Christina Martin’s School of Food and Wine in Durban. From here I made it my goal to understand each department and hospitality outlet in our industry – you can only do this by gaining as much experience as widely as possible. I have been blessed with strong financial acumen, a healthy balance of blue sky AND lateral thinking, empathy and understanding coupled with problem solving abilities. These skills paired with focus and determination have allowed me to successfully lead teams in a variety of establishments all over South Africa (from 5*properties: Game lodges, Boutique Hotels, Restaurants, Wine farms, Golf Estates, Exclusive Banqueting and Conferencing venues). Part of my challenge to grow myself was to hold positions as Exec Sous, Exec Chef, F&B Manager, Duty Manager, General Manager, Head of Department Professional Cookery & Culinary Arts and now ultimately Group Exec Chef.

Why were you drawn to training and how would you describe your style of training?

You are not drawn to something, you are born for something. As stated above, my drive for knowledge is one for understanding and problem solving. The need for all humans is pretty simple – the need for a deeper understanding and acknowledgement.

My style of training is hands-on, transparent and honest – my goal is to breed a holistically balanced worker. There is no need for a sense of grandiose or superiority or the derogatory way of breaking someone down in order to “build them”. This way you don’t harness the individuality and power of that person and only create a watered down clone of someone else, who will then grow into an unhappy and unmotivated worker/trainer that will enforce this derogatory way on others again.

No, break the chain by identifying the strength and weakness of   the worker, then motivate and encourage bravery in every task (be it small or large).

Hospitality is an honourable trade that I am fortunate to serve in, as you contribute to something greater than yourself. This is after all the foundation of service – not just to the guest, but also to your colleagues and ultimately impacting your immediate world by Newton’s theory.

What are some of the most important lessons you teach your students at Capital Hotel School?

  • Never lose sight of why you joined the service. Remind yourself through all the challenges (and trust me they will be EVERYWHERE…) of why you are here. Remember, if the centre cannot hold, things fall apart.
  • Stay true to your initial calling and never stop fighting for what is right, even though the rest of the world kicks against it.
  • Reason it out – there is nothing new under the sun – just new ways of looking at things. Science and Maths are part of the age old secrets of our trade, embrace it and let the answers come to you.
  • Make time to get quiet and listen to the rhythm of the kitchen, food and service. Yes, there might only be one Captain on a ship, but no man is an island and you as the prospective team leader cannot succeed without the participation of your team.
  • Attain loyalty and respect through sincerity, transparency, knowledge shared and of course making sure you work harder than any other staff member on that team as the leader.
  • Understand, practice and respect the importance of mise en place and approach every task from a HACCP point of view, after all, that is why the Risk Assessment was done – so that the Standard Operating Procedure could be put in place to anticipate such a risk.
  • Understand that there is no such thing as immediate gratification in service. It is not about YOU, it is about the service rendered to the guest.
  • The rules stay:
    • Less Me, more FOOD (Hate to break it to you, but it is not all about YOU…)
    • You can always add again, but you can never take it out (Practice moderation)
    • When in doubt, throw it out (Trust your senses in everything you do)
    • Finally, remember you might be in service, but you are not a servant. So compose yourself and serve with honour.

What, do you think, makes Capital Hotel School ‘different’ as a training institute?

The real power of an organisation lies within the human element. A combined and conclusive resolve from all to commit to training and strengthening the qualities of the student and ultimately provide industry with a strong and confident worker that was taught to love the trade for all that it is (be it great or heart-breaking at days).

I think our mantra says it all – Embracing the Art of Hospitality… Embracing the Art of Training… Embracing the Art of Humanity.