Meet ous chef at Tsogo Sun's Garden Court Umhlanga, Memory Kutiwa
March 22, 2019
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal: There's a new chef whose cooking up a storm in KZN. Meet Memory Kutiwa, the new sous chef at Tsogo Sun's Garden Court Umhlanga. Kutiwa who celebrates her 10-year journey at Tsogo Sun, joined Garden Court Umhlanga in November 2018.
She took some timeout the kitchen to have a quick chat with one of our reporters, Farhana Ismail. Read below what insightful details she had to share about her journey with Tsogo Sun.
1) What prompted you to pursue a career as a chef?
Growing up in Zimbabwe as a young Girl ( age 11 ), My aunt was working in one of the suburbs in Bulawayo as a cook. She used to bring these colourful recipe books home and I would find myself reading them from cover to cover and always eager to try out dishes even though it never made sense at the time, I wasn’t even familiar with some of the Ingredients .
But that’s when the passion, love for food and cooking began.
2) Where did you study?
I studied Food and Beverage Management in Mutare, Zimbabwe. However I was unable to complete the course as a result of financial challenges.
However Tsogo Sun, made it possible and I was able to complete my studies through the Tsogosun Academy . I also studied City & Guilds Food Preparations & Cooking at Chef MLK School in Kempton Park and graduated in 2016.
That was a dream come true. I have worked with Tsogo Sun group for a fantastic 10 years and so proud to achieve this milestone
3) Was it your dream to be a chef?
Its God Given .For me it is a calling. When I put on my chef gear, even the walk changes!!! . I don’t even remember when was the last time I felt like I am at work when I’m in the Kitchen. Its within me, that’s my life .
The opportunity to do what I love and enjoy it, is such a privilege for me.
4) What does it mean for you to be working with the leaders in hospitality?
Very Inspirational. I should say, having leaders who recognise young talent , mould it correctly and nurture it into a career is encouraging.
I was given a great opportunity. Very Special thanks to Ian Mackay ( GM ) Garden Court East London. To me you are a FATHER .
I sometimes wonder if these leaders know the Impact they have on the team.
As a young Zimbabwean female , a mother of two beautiful Kids , I joined Tsogo Sun with a few goals in my mind at the time ,learning , building, furthering my career as well as giving strong foundation to my children through quality education and the economic opportunity which a career offers me.
All that was made possible by Tsogo Sun. Through my journey at Tsogo Sun, I have worked with eight Executive Chefs , they are all unique and offered me new skills. I remain deeply grateful to all of them for all of the imparted knowledge and lessons learnt through minor errors, (both theirs and mine). My current executive chef Warren Bell and I, have in a short time developed a healthy working relationship. He has got his own way of delivering front line team results.
The team always teases him saying “Give that man a Bells”. Incorporating fun into the working environment , that’s what we do at Garden Court Umhlanga Rocks.
4) Memory Kutiwa’s duties entail:
Sous Chef . This covers all areas of the kitchen from staff training, mentoring, cleaning, planning, lots of cooking , purchasing, innovation, food cost control and financial issues directly related to the kitchen. To name a few. The unwritten, self-imposed responsibilities of “getting it right” remains as always the most exciting challenge as it has a direct impact on our guest experience.
Guest satisfaction is always number one. To achieve this I focus on doing things right the first time. My number one priority, is adhering to healthy ,safety & food hygiene. First things first before we switch the stoves on we have to get that right. I always say to my team ,personal hygiene starts at home. Followed by ordering of stock , we have to provide the team with all the tools in order for them to perform their duties. Controlling and maintaining stock level, stock counting , maintaining excellent quality standards of food delivery.
Managing & training of staff & day to day running of the kitchen, Assigning and delegating duties to the team , on job training , menu planning & costing ,participating in recruitment of junior chefs, Reporting all maintenance related issues ,Ensuring great care of kitchen equipment , Utensils & servicing. I as well work as part of the team and report directly to the executive chef. Equipping my staff with the knowledge and tools has always had a positive effect on guest experience.
5) Please describe your career journey
I have always tried to make the most of every opportunity. I fully understand the process of starting at the bottom and working upwards through learning and development. I have been determined to learn something from every department I worked in and every kitchen I have been employed at. I started at the in service level straight from college and I have progressed from 2003 until today.
I moved to South Africa in November 2008 in search for greener pastures and wider opportunity . I joined Tsogo Sun 10 years ago at Garden Court East London , I transferred to Hemingway’s Casino on promotion in October 2017. In November 2018, I joined Garden Court Umhlanga and I have since progressed to today.
6) What is your favourite cooking style?
I personally enjoy food with Asian Influences, Very colourful , flavourful & experimental. It lends itself to my style of cooking. It is evident here in Durban with the eclectic mix of flavours and cultures. Just about everywhere today we are mixing and matching, creating a fusion of flavours in everything that we do.
7) What kitchen ingredient can you not do without?
Fresh Herbs – Depending on what’s cooking.
Basil , either fresh leaves or pesto is fantastic with all kinds of pasta and goes very well with tomatoes .
It’s all about getting the flavours right.
8) What is your favourite dish?
Grilled skewered prawns served with a citrus salad, garden greens & my very own citrus sauce .
It reminds me of my “Sous Chefs Dinner” at Hemmingway’s Casino when the dish was voted the best dish of the Day.
Mentored by Chef Gibb.
9) Who would you say inspires you?
Inspired by my Mum , In order to be a strong woman you have to work hard and everything else will come as a bonus , those where her words .
I so wish that she was still alive to see the results.
My team inspires me a lot , Very strong & high levels of respect within the team. Creative people with fresh new ideas . Never underestimate the power of a happy team.
Teamwork and dedication yield the best results. Magic happens when doing a simple things like discussing the menu for an upcoming event or function with the team.