Tag Archives: banqueting

Meet Chef Michélle Theron of Hazendal: 2021 Top 10 Woman Chef!


Hazendal Executive Chef Michelle Theron is a busy lady, running five restaurants on the spectacular Stellenbosch wine estate, which I visited for the first time last weekend.  Unfortunately I was unable to meet Chef Michélle, as she had already left after preparing breakfast for guests renting the Hazendal Homestead. I left her prize of a bottle of Adhara Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil with her colleague, in recognition of being selected as a 2021 Top 10 Woman Chef. Continue reading →

Banning bloggers not a response to Social Media criticism: an open letter to Michael Pownall, GM of Taj Cape Town!

Taj logoDear Michael

I laughed when I received your letter of 28 February in the post this weekend, to advise that I have been banned from your five star establishment, a member of Leading Hotels of the World!

You wrote: ‘This letter serves to inform you of our shock and disappointment at the manner in which you have dealt with our establishment in the social media.  As a fellow colleague in the hospitality industry I have been (sic) amazed that you have failed to address our perceived shortcomings and your concerns, (sic) directly with me, the general manager. We are fully supportive of social media, however, one should have details 100% correct before publicly. (sic) Slandering (sic) one of my team and our establishment, it is so unnecessary and unprofessional.  To this end, we wish to advise you that you are no longer welcome nor permitted to enter or be in the Taj Cape Town hotel without my personal permission. Should you enter the premises, you will be apprehended by our Security Department and asked to leave’.

You do not state which 0f the references by us to the Taj in ‘Social Media‘ you refer to:

*   was it the Tweet about the rude service from your barman during the interval of a concert at the St George’s Cathedral a few weeks ago, which I reported to your Duty Manager?

*   was it the poor accommodation at your hotel after the poor Gastronauts gourmet dinner at Mint more than 3 years ago, so bad that I chose to go home in the middle of the night?

*   was it the Tweet four months ago about the poor non-caring attitude of your Banqueting Manager Eugene Myburgh, when he showed no regard for my complaint about slipping on your dangerous highly polished wooden floor in your Banqueting section, once again reported to your Duty Manager, with no response?

*   was it the mention a month ago about your new Conference facility you are opening in The Reserve this month, mentioning my doubt that your Manager Myburgh will be capable in running it if he cannot even run the tiny Banqueting section in your hotel? Continue reading →

Cape Town Tourism CEO replacement: Tourism Super(wo)man sought!

My eye caught two interesting employment ads in a chance paging through the Sunday Times Money & Careers section on Sunday.  Both will have a significant impact on Cape Town, and its tourism and hospitality industry!

The Cape Town International Convention Centre is looking for an Executive Chef, and we say we hope that Cape Town’s best chefs will step forward to apply for this job.  Most attendees of events taking place at this leading international convention centre praise everything about it… except its dreadful food, which resembles canteen food, even at its small restaurant.  The ad positions the Convention Centre as an ‘exceptional centre requires exceptional staff’, and calls for an Executive Chef ‘to provide strategic leadership within the kitchen structures, building capacity for innovation and change’.  One wonders if a prospective chef will understand what is expected of him or her!  The candidate sought must have ‘top-end Fine Dining experience’, and will have experience in Human Resources management, in ‘exceptional customer service’ (how does the chef manage his kitchen and connect with and keep customers happy too?), culinary standards, culinary functions, and managing a kitchen in a ‘multi-unit property including large banqueting facilities‘, an obvious contradiction between the banqueting experience and fine-dining experience sought! Qualifications required are a Hotel School diploma or 2-year university degree (unusual length of time for a degree, usually being a three year minimum), as well as a 10 year culinary food and beverage experience. ‘Historically Disadvantaged Individuals’ are ‘particularly’ welcomed to apply by 19 April!  The recruitment ad appears to want the impossible, and does not appear to be focused.  No fine-dining chef would spoil his/her CV and reputation by working at the Convention Centre, if its focus is predominantly canteen food!

Lack of focus characterises the Cape Town Tourism advertisement that is looking to replace Mariette du Toit-Helmbold as CEO of Cape Town Tourism. Firstly, one can be hugely concerned that the ad is still running three months before Mrs Helmbold’s departure and that it only closes on 29 April, and that interviews will only take place on 16 May, according to the ad. This is cutting it fine for a replacement to take over Mrs Helmbold’s job when she leaves at the end of July, a promise which was made to the industry at the time that the non-renewal of her contract was announced.  Second, an unbelievable set of requirements is contained in the very busy recruitment advertisement, possibly written by Mrs Helmbold herself, being so wordy and with poor wording!  The ad calls for a person who:

*   is passionate, energetic, and dynamic

*    has a track record in business and/or tourism management and marketing (a wide field, covering three disciplines!)

*   can ‘hit the ground running’ and ‘generate high-yield tourism year-round‘!  Clearly this addresses Winter Seasonality, but no tourism body based in Cape Town has ever managed to crack this tough nut, least of all Mrs Helmbold!

*   can develop the business, to increase its ‘commercial income’, to allow CTT (Cape Town Tourism, but the acronym is not defined in the ad) to grow ‘without additional public sector funding‘.  The City of Cape Town has allocated a fixed budget of R 117 million to Cape Town Tourism for the three year period commencing on 1 July.

*   can manage a team to ‘unlock local distinctiveness, unique visitor experiences and new tourism potential, and spread the benefits to tourism

*   can improve ‘the performance of Cape Town’s tourism businesses’ (surely that is for each individual tourism business to do?)

*   can maximise the involvement of these local tourism businesses in Cape Town Tourism’s (undefined) programmes.

*   is an ‘accomplished, highly experienced marketer and communicator, boasting (surely a Helmbold give-away!) a minimum of 10 years’ experience with at least 5 years at a Senior Management level

*   has a track record of ‘firm but fair strategic leadership’ (this makes no sense, but does alliterate!), which should include ‘innovatively motivating teams’, manage ‘complex‘ (interesting word, to define the powerful and domineering control by the newish City of Cape Town Tourism, Events, Arts and Marketing department headed by the tough Executive Director Anton Groenewald?) stakeholder relationships, and ‘a working knowledge of the industry’ (this last criterion has no link to the ‘strategic leadership’ criterion at the start of the ad’s long sentence.

*   has a postgraduate Marketing, PR or Communications qualification (why would this be necessary as Cape Town Tourism has a Marketing Manager?  Interesting too, as Mrs Helmbold has no post-graduate qualification, her degree majors having been English – a surprise, given her poor writing – and Political Science)!

*   can manage a ‘similar complex organisation‘ (the complexity of it is undefined, and should not be described as such for an organisation with a staff size of about 76)

*   can provide ‘evidence of respect gained from the tourism and/or greater business community, government and the private sector alike‘ (a badly structured sentence that does not clarify if one must show testimonials across all these stakeholder types, or if only one will suffice!)

*   who will meet the ‘highly prized‘ requirements of ‘diplomacy and the ability to motivate and inspire

*   last but not least 1:  ‘A track record in tourism and business beyond the bounds of Cape Town will be wonderful‘! (our underlining).

*  last but not least 2, and emphasised in bold: ‘The Cape Town Brand is strong, so keep the momentum up by being the face of Cape Town Tourism, and not only embodying the credo of Cape Town as a city of inspiration (not sure when this became its credo, and what about Cape Town Tourism’s positioning of ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’!), but also motivating staff and citizens to do the same‘!

Interesting is that the recruitment ad calls for 15 distinctive attributes to entitle the new incumbent to step into Mrs Helmbold’s shoes, but has neglected one key component characteristic of her management of Cape Town Tourism, which is Social Media communication, i.e. to Tweet about Tourism events and trends (hopefully without #MommyTweets in future!), and to write in good English (something she is really weak at)! A CEO who does not become friends with her/his staff, and therefore does not turn a blind eye to its unprofessional behaviour, will be most welcome too.

It is doubtful if Cape Town Tourism will find a replacement CEO by 1 July, especially as Mr Groenewald shared that they are not only searching for a local replacement, but will be searching internationally too! However long the search may take, it may be exacerbated by the almost impossible mix of requirements, some contradictory, expected of the new Tourism Super(wo)man CEO of Cape Town Tourism!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage