LOCAL hospitality schools must ensure that their students get exposure in other countries which have bigger and more vibrant tourism and hospitality industries to ensure that they produce graduates who are ready for employment.
This was said by Donald Moletsane, who is the president of the Lesotho Chefs Association (LCA) in a recent interview with the Lesotho Times.
Chef Donald said local institutions must invest in international experiential training to ensure that when they are released onto the market, they are ready to make a positive impact.
He said at his Dona@Balos Chefs School and Hospitality, he gets graduates with hotel management degrees but often they are still “raw” and do not know the basics of the operations of a hospitality establishment’s kitchen.
“How does such a person know about menu planning?” he queried.
“There are some hospitality schools out there which are destroying our kids because they are just out to make money. Their graduates are really struggling at their jobs. Some come to me looking for jobs and I assess them only to see that they are clueless. They don’t even know the ranks in the kitchen.
“A person who does not know such basics cannot be a good general manager. Most of the graduates only know about the reception and nothing about the kitchen and housekeeping. That is why they will not understand when a guest complains.
“This is largely caused by the fact that Lesotho does not have a culture of assessing and scrutinising people before they are employed. Basotho believe in nepotism and not skills.”
He added that all the hospitality schools must become affiliated with LCA so that they can get easy international exposure.
“There must be a clear relationship between culinary arts and hospitality because the role of the LCA is to give their students international exposure,” he said.
Chef Donald, who is also the Director of the Southern African Chefs United, lamented Basotho’s reluctance to promote the food and the tourism industries.
“I have travelled around the world and seen people who have passion about their tourism especially when it comes to their food industry. However, Lesotho is not doing anything about food.
“Even on a day like Moshoeshoe’s Day, an occasion of such momentous historical significance, you do not see any traditional food for tourists to taste. In other countries, they ensure that all visitors get to experience their local food. If you go to Ghana today, they will ask you if you have tasted their fufu. Why can’t we introduce our traditional dishes for tourists even at hotels?
“Visitors struggle to get traditional food in Lesotho. A lot of tourists come to taste our food but we do not prepare it. This is the reason for which the LCA wants to ensure that we promote the African food industry and also to motivate upcoming and experienced chefs to prepare local food.”
He said the government must do more to promote the food industry as it is a key component of the tourism industry. He said this can be done through initiatives like food and beverage festivals.
“We need to have funds set aside by the government to hold food and beverage festivals to promote tourism. I always get invitations all over the world, for instance, last night I received an invitation for a food festival which will be held in Malaysia on the 9th and 10th of July 2019 to prepare our African food and plate it in a modern way.
“From next week, the LCA must select a team of chefs who will enter that competition and my worry is who are we going to select when our people do not know about our traditional food? Even our kids only know about fast foods.
“Traditional food, good music and beverages are some of the key attractions in tourism and all that goes together.”
Chef Donald said the situation in the local food industry is worsened by the fact that only a few players concentrate on food in the tourism sector as the majority focuses on accommodation. He said he has also tried to influence change through engaging different ministers of tourism but his efforts have been hampered by the constant change of governments.
“Everybody cares about accommodation. I have been working to establish a vibrant culinary arts industry in Lesotho for the past 12 years but because the ministers of tourism are changed so frequently, it reduces our progress. Its painful, because when I invite a minister here, he will be wowed by what we can do but a few months after introducing an idea, that minister is changed and you have to start the cycle all over again. I have been doing this for several years.”
During school holidays, Chef Donald said he enrolls young children with an interest in culinary arts of short courses so that they develop their interest as they grow.
“I teach some of the children how to make beef patties and sausages from scratch and even baking. Slowly we are trying to catch up with South Africa which already has junior chefs with competitions on television while we only have senior chefs. This is the reason for which we are training them because such activities inspire the kids.”
He also implored the government to support their efforts citing an instance where members of the Ghanaian Chefs’ Association toured Lesotho to train local chefs in 2017 but ended up being stranded without accommodation because of lack of government support.
He said he was embarrassed when they were later invited in Ghana and were given first class treatment.
“The Ghanaians did not get the support that they expected when they came here to Lesotho in terms of meals and accommodation. However, when we were in Ghana, we got the best hospitality. We were transported from the airport by a government shuttle and we were welcomed by ministers. We were even taken to radio and TV stations.
“Our hosts made us cook in a stadium and the striking issue is that they made us promote their own products. They produce chocolate and they asked us to show them what we can do with their chocolate. Imagine if Lesotho was to do the same with its trout for the world to see.
“When the Ghanaians came here in 2017 for six weeks, that period was the most difficult time of my life because I ended up taking money from my pocket and giving the chefs accommodation at my house and they were so disappointed.
“The chefs work in five-star hotels and they came to train our people and motivate them but we treated them like unwanted guests. The chefs’ association in Ghana called me and expressed their anger at what had happened. Now when Ghana comes for these programmes, they pay for everything on their own. I only provide meals and transport but they pay for everything else. On the other hand, when our chefs tour Ghana, the association pays through subscription fees and not the government.
“This has however, hampered our growth as an association as we are constantly saddled by debt. For instance, now we owe M50 000 to an Abu Dhabi association for a debt incurred in 2017 when we went for the Abu Dhabi Culinary Cup. Since we have not paid for two years, now we cannot register with the World Chefs Association. Now the association has to raise the money on its own because the government does not assist us in any form.
“This is despite the fact that we went there to promote African food and not the association. We were actually the country’s ambassadors.”
Chef Donald was born in Lesotho but went for his high school in Marquard, in South Africa until 2000. He then enrolled for a Gouden Blue Diploma at Olive Chefs School in Bloemfontein which he acquired in 18 months.
After acquiring the diploma, he then enrolled for an International Diploma in Culinary Arts at Hotel Training Academy in Pretoria which he started in 2003 and finished in 2007.
“I was then employed at Protea Hotel in Black Mountain in Thaba Nchu but eventually came to Lesotho in 2008 when I became an executive chef at Sun International Hotel. That is when I realised there was a need for a culinary school in Lesotho.
“I only worked at Sun International for one year and started Dona@Balos Chefs School and Hospitality a year later.
“To start this school, I sold food on the streets and people would laugh at me saying I had left a good job to work on the streets because I was the first black executive chef at Sun International. While selling food, I got a contract to prepare food for Vodacom during their family day. I prepared food for 700 people and after that, I started the school,” Chef Donald said.