Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making waves in Nigeria....a news paper article from the Nigerian Tribune

Movenpick Ambassador hotel, Accra, Ghana. Inset, executive chef, Mr Walter Butti.
Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra, Ghana, is one of the Swiss hospitality brands attracting patronage from Nigeria ’Wale Olapade during a recent visit interviewed the executive chef, Mr Walter Butti, on the hotel’s culinary treat.

What is Movenpick selling point?
Movenpick started with food that is extremely important to the hotel. It is one of our selling points, but not our most selling point. Being passionately Swiss, we insist on quality, we import a lot here and I get a plane load every week with fresh lotuses, edible vegetables all organically grown in Europe. At the same time, I am having some farmers here (Ghana) growing for us. If possible, we do not buy from local markets. Nevertheless, for Movenpick, food is one of the main selling points.
How has it helped in selling relatively this new property of Movenpick? We had a major change over a couple of months ago. Under four months, we have rebranded the entire food outlets, reorganised the kitchen and the purchasing team because we want to be where our clients wants to be. It has helped before because the quality has always been good, the meat comes from South Africa, fish is cooked locally, and anglers normally bring it to us. Moreover, people appreciate quality so this is why they come here.
How do you intend satisfying the local customers’ vis-à-vis the international as a world brand?The local is extremely important because it covers the majority of our business, locally, our branded branches are usually fully booked, and what we do is that we have a mix between continental and local.
We have a couple of chefs in the kitchen who are fantastic chefs for the Ghana foods and that is what they do all day and the idea is that we are the best in what we do and then of course this include local food. I am not the one cooking the traditional local recipes because I am not locally grown. Nevertheless, as the chief chef, they all come to me, we go through the recipes, and whatever they need we get for them. We have our ebuno soup, which is a delicious local one, where you have snails and other garnishing and spicy rich local condiments; we go out to get all these ingredients. Sometimes, the European taste is sometimes strange for the local clients.
Do you experiment in terms of cooking?We have started experimenting quite soon to have a fusion of the local and international.
How many home grown chefs do you have and how well are they disposed to servicing the needs of the indigenous customers? Many of the chefs we have employed had already worked in different hotels here in Accra and others in hotels abroad. Out of the 48 chefs, I have three experts while the ones left are local and two of the executive chefs in charge are local who have spent 20 years in different hotels abroad before coming back to Ghana. To get them to international standard is all about training and training is an ongoing exercise and I am very fortunate with one of my chefs, who work mainly in the morning on all the European dishes.
He grew up in Germany, while his mother is from Ghana. He came back some couple of years ago, he knows virtually all the flavours of what the European and intercontinental customers like. I try to get the best in each region. Our Asian chef, from the Philippine, is in charge of the sushi and all the Asian foods we serve in Movenpick. In addition, when it comes to training, it is just simple, I am in the kitchen, I cook with the chef and we taste together.
Considering your wealth of experience in world brand hotels signature food, what should customers expect from you in Movenpick Ghana? I think it is something that is for me; it is not reinventing the deal, but is really going down to basics. It is all about flavour, taste and looks. Everything we do has to be authentic and I think this is the difference. It is not new although, but it is something that you have not heard or seen here. I have years of international experience, I left Swiss over 20 years ago, I worked for 10 years in South Africa, seven years on ships travelling all over the world. I want to say that the new taste we now have here is not chef Butti but it is the Movenpick and chef Butti, we have reorganised to have the authentic Vietnamese foods.
What is the patronage and feedback like? The feedback is very good, especially over the last three months, we have changed the flavour pattern a little bit and the response is extremely positive and the next thing we will attempt is our function venue to opt for more variety and interesting local flavours.
You said that you have just changed the flavour pattern, what do you mean? It is quite difficult to explain this. When you taste the food, it is different now. Food is not complete without the chicken cube, so we have this in stock. This little thing has changed our jollof rice from being very good to one that is loved by our local clientele.
Are you rigid in terms of flavour? No. But I think as a chef one needs to be open-minded and I am definitely not one of the diva chefs. It is cooked based on clients’ taste. I do not know your taste, but it know it. We ensure that our clientele’s satisfaction is guarantteed.
You spoke about looks in your food pattern, aside your buffet service, will you able to serve local food continental style? Yes, we will be able to do this. Recently, we started a bit, but not much yet and some certain items are difficult to change. if you have a Tilapia for an instance, it has to be whole. It has to be done the way the local people like it. So, I cannot now go out to do it the continental way and put all fancy sauce spices that are alien to them it will just not be Tilapia for local people. I used to make in the Philippine, there, the Tilapia use to get a deep fry, in Europe it is pan-fried and here, I keep it local. We have yam on the menu but it takes 25 minutes to cook. You cannot pre-cook it because it will not be nice and since we got complains that it takes more time for the yam to be served and for now I took it off the menu. If you want yam, you are welcome and they also known that you have to wait for 25 minutes for it to cook. Therefore, to satisfy the needs of customers we are now playing around with yam chips, yam fries and making yam coming out in different ways to have it local but doing it the continental way.
Does Movenpick run an apprenticeship programme? We do not run an apprenticeship programme but internship. We have people coming to be in the kitchen for two months as well as a stint in other departments of the hotel.

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