Have you ever wondered why experts consider a kitchen to be the heart of hotels and restaurants, or why chefs are considered to be one of the most important persons in that business?
Well, it all starts in the kitchen before spreading to other departments and for a successful hotel or restaurant business, knowledge on food costing, kitchen management, sanitation among others are a MUST, to help you keep the business at its feet.
Given the delicacy of their profession, Chefs decided to create Culinary Association Uganda, a body that brings chefs and culinary practitioners together to enable them carry out extensive training, networking, coordination, cooperation, planning among other things for the benefit of their job.
This association was established in 2017 and is fully recognised by Hotel Owners Association (HOA).
According to Godfrey Kalungi, the head chef at Mambo restaurant Kansanga, the association was created with an aim of building capacity of Ugandan chefs through training, research, building databases for all chefs and to promote their welfare across the country among other things.
And on Monday, they held their annual workshop at Hotel La Grande to enable them interact, carry out training to improve on their skills and productivity in the sector.
Organised under the theme Food Costing, Kalungi said that prices of food are a key factor in the hotel, restaurant business but its where most people go wrong, that’s why some businesses fail to last long.
“We chose to carry out this year’s workshop under that theme because many chefs are in the industry but they don’t know how to cost their food, they only know how to cook and then serve to customers, not knowing how much they invested and the profits expected,” he said.
Apart from food costing, chefs were also taken through a training on how to handle food, sanitation and kitchen management, and Kalungi believes that after this training, hotel bosses and customers will see a difference.
He however pointed out that despite the positive achievements registered, many chefs have been trapped in other associations which are not recognised and meetings are sometimes not so easy especially with chefs who work from a far, plus, some of their fellows deliberately refuse to subscribe to this association.
James Busingye, the chef at Piato restaurant pointed out that their association has a vision of improving their work far away from what they are taught in class, and having such workshops help them learn new things, network and also get informed.
“Higher levels of learning mainly teach us theory, so through these training, we always encourage ourselves to be creative, you don’t have to rely on what you studied, that’s why we come out with such training,” he said.
He shared that previously, chefs were under the Hotel Owners Association (HOA), but they saw a need of becoming independent, thus coming up with an idea of forming their own association which focuses on their interests.
“HOA is a big blanket so we decided to form our own association of chefs but still under HOA to enable us to explore more as chefs, share ideas, agree as a team, and also to engage each and everyone in our business,” he said.
Jean Byamugisha, the CEO of HOA, said that she was pleased to learn that chefs had decided to form an independent body, because according to her, it was a sign that they are willing to fight for the betterment of their job.
And about the Food costing theme, Byamugisha said that poor food costing does not only affect the hotels or restaurants owners, but it also affects the chefs in case they fail to make profits.
“Food costing affects everything in our business, when a hotel hires a chef, they expected them to make profits for the business, so if the chef doesn’t know how to cost their food, they may fail to keep a job for even three months because of loses,” she said.
“The kitchen is one of the key departments in either a hotel or restaurant and a major income stream in this business, so food costing and making sure that the kitchen is running in a profitable way is a must for chefs, to help them maintain jobs and for hotels to keep making profits.”
Byamugisha however pointed out that food costing is very important, but yet a complex topic where many chefs go wrong and end up costing the hotel’s money, therefore, she advised chefs to attend more trainings, get exposed and also acquire more skills about the topic among other things, for this is how they will be able to command a higher price too.
‘Value addition’ is what Innocent Asiimwe, the Licencing and Inspection Officer of Uganda Tourism Board is expecting to see after the chef’s workshop.
“My job is to promote, market and promote the hotel business, so after this workshop I expect value addition in many things. am sure chefs have broadened their knowledge and they have also known their product and how to handle it,” he said.
He is expecting that following the training, consumers will also get value for their money, for chefs have acquired skills on how to keep prices of their food fair.
Emmanuel Gonahasa, the ED of Miha Grill House (Naguru and Kyanja) said that he has been in the food business for over 15 years, but such training benefits both employers and employees.
“These training sessions help them identify talents and help us spot potential employees, it’s through these workshops that we groom fellow chefs on how to handle the kitchen, help people to get a basis for improvement, help to mentor and motivate each other among other things,” he said.
“I believe in networking, I love sharing idea with my fellows, it also interests me to see how chefs are putting in efforts to fight for the betterment of our industry, its just good and this is adding a lot of value to our job,” said Steven Oyandi, a head chef at Executive Kalya Courts in Fort Portal.
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