Student life at the International Hotel School (IHS) started for me in 2004. It was a new year and I could not wait to start learning about an industry I had so much passion for.
The first week was orientation week. We went on wine tours and got to know each other. We were all different and yet we all seemed to get on so well. Everyone made friends quickly, which made it easy for the fun to start.
We all started the year partying all the time, not realising that we actually had to learn to pass. So when the first exams came, everyone was really stressed. The pass mark being 70% seemed unreachable, but most of us still made it. However, we realised we had to work hard if we wanted to earn good marks. The euphoria of being accepted, being in college, and all the fun we could have paled when we thought of the future. The future is ours and we have to work for it. I made the choice to work hard.
When I started my first practical, I had no idea what I was in for in the kitchen of the grand Arabella Sheraton. My first day was good. We ended early. Well that was easy, I thought, then the next day arrived. I walked into the kitchen at six in the morning, I could smell the floor cleaner, mixed with the smell of chicken stock.
“What are you going to do? Stand there all day. Get in here,” a rounded little man yelled at me.
I followed him into the 37’s kitchen where the smell of bacon and eggs lingered in the air.
“Here! Do the eggs! Fry if they want them fried, and scramble, if they want them scrambled”
I did not argue. I fried. I scrambled. I stood there and watched, one guest after another walk into the restaurant. I fried egg after egg for each of them, some sunny side up and others over easy.
“Scrambled, please,” some asked, and I smiled.
“Certainly, Sir,” I said and soon it became easy.
As we went through the different sections of kitchen; main kitchen, pastry, towers and, my favourite, banqueting, we absorbed knowledge… while absorbing all the kitchen smells in our hair. Banqueting was really hard work, and oh my, did we work long hours? There wasn’t a moment to spare. The hotel staff pushed and demanded the best from us, but when it was over, did they know how to party!
I made wonderful friends in that department and managed to spend most of my kitchen Prac there. One of my favourite memories from then was the day Niza and I started work at six in the morning, after one of those famous chefs nights out that we had. We only slept for about an hour before we had to be back in the kitchen. When we got to work, we were told we were going to be there the whole day and the whole night for an important function.
We started with our prep for the evening. We were exhausted, but we tried really hard. We lasted until about midday. By then, being smokers, we were not only tired; we were dying for a smoke break. Sivvy, our boss, sent us on a two-hour break. We went to the smoker’s room, had a smoke, and fell asleep. An hour later we woke up. I drank coffee. Niza had a coke, and we were ready to go again.
We started the cooking. I was on mashed-potato duty. I put the potatoes on to boil; Niza had Chop duty, my worst. You always manage to burn yourself. My potatoes were ready to be mashed. With the huge masher, I stood for about 45 minutes, mashing; it is serious arm work. I would have made Maui Thai proud.
It was now ten minutes to serving dinner. I put the mash into four Bain Maries and loaded them onto the trolley. Niza helped me push the trolley down the passage just to make sure they got there safely. Halfway there, we hit a bump in the floor, and all the mash went flying. Luckily we were the only two in the passage, we just did the first thing that came to mind.
“Scoop it up. Quickly!” We had to carry on. No one ever knew. We look back now and laugh, but then, with our Head Chef on duty, it wasn’t so funny. We expected our heads to roll.
Holidays came, and we all went home. We managed to wash the oil smells from our hair eventually and we became human again. We began smelling good just in time for a new term of theory - service.
I knew the partying had to be toned down to weekends only. Oh yes, and not forgetting, Wednesdays. Being back in college was great. We all had stories to tell, good, and bad, while we compared our hotels and the experiences we had there.
I worked hard. I wanted to keep my high marks. I am working towards a cum laude.
Service was not my favourite department. I found it was not for me. I managed to earn good marks, but I did not enjoy the Prac. I missed the kitchen. I particularly missed the banqueting kitchen.
Second year arrived and we were all a little older, a little more focused, and yes, still partying. From being a class of twenty, we became a class of 40. The college joined the two first year classes. It was daunting at first, but we were bigger, and better. We had just finished our Housekeeping Prac. I loved it. Not many students will agree with me, but it has been my favourite, by far. Cleaning, for me, is therapeutic, and relaxing. The ladies that I worked with were wonderful. Even the Wicked Witch, as I called our boss, contributed to my experience. I learned a lot from her. At the end of my time in Housekeeping, I loved her, and I will never forget her praise. It gave me confidence and courage.
Voting time for the Student Representative Council came round. I made it. I was voted on as the secretary. There are six of us on the Council. We all thought it would be a good idea to celebrate with a dinner. It was at Andrews’s house. The night started out with wine and snacks, while our famous Paul Eaton cooked up a storm. We set the table, and sat down to a night that was just getting started. We played music, drank red wine, and danced. We bonded that night, as we were getting ready to take up our positions. We were ready to represent the students. We have grown into a strong group. We are the best SRC team.
During these two years I have met amazing people, made amazing friends, each with their own special personalities. There have been many laughs, and tears, but we are a close bunch. We are a strong unit, and all of us, I think, are going to make it big.
We have had so much fun with our dances and other social events, in our Prac’s, and at College.
For those of you who are thinking of studying hospitality, go for it. It’s a blast. You do shed tears, cut your fingers, worry your mothers, and work very, very, long hours, but then there are the times at 5.30 am when you find yourself running up and down the hotel passages with a friend, spraying air freshener on each other! There are also the times when you make someone smile with gratefulness. The nights you come home, and think, wow, that was hard work, and, wow, I am still alive. I have experienced a sense of achievement and I celebrated each of my successes to the fullest. However, please take note: Weekends only!
Student life? No. This is life!