HOW do you reward the crème de la crème of Malaysian hospitality industry trainees? Why, send them on a jaunt to experience the best practices and latest trends in the food and beverage business, of course.
The Guinness Anchor Berhad Academy did just that to four of its best trainees – selected from the group of 300 who took part in the Hotel, Entertainment Outlets & Restaurant Operators (HEROs) programme.
Clarice Chau, Suresh Sinasamy, Sudeep Singh and Malaysia-based Frenchman Nigen Florian spent five heady days in Bangkok last month, in a learning experience covering service standards, cocktail-making skills and even product design.
And to top it all off, there was another challenge for the “Heros” – to be picked as the best at the end of the trip.
The sodden weather in Thailand’s capital city did little to dampen their enthusiasm. With iPads in hand, the eager beavers soaked up new skills and knowledge from celebrity chefs, wine and cocktail buffs, crystal stemware experts, and gift and premium designers, all in the spirit of fun and camaraderie.
Among the highlights of the experience was a visit to the Sirocco Sky Bar, made famous by the Hollywood movie Hangover 2.
Located on the 63rd floor of State Tower LeBua Hotel, it is one of the world’s highest drinking spots. The hangout for celebrities overlooks a panoramic view of the city and offers great live jazz.
Chau, 21, of Traders Hotel’s SkyBar, Suresh, 37, (New Orleans, Genting), Sudeep, 36 (Santini KLCC & TCM) and Florian, 26, (WIP, Bangsar) also learned about “new latitude” wines at the Siam Winery, one of the few places in the region where grapes are grown and made into a variety of wines.
The “Heros” also underwent a swaying cooking lesson on board the Manohra, a converted teakwood rice barge as it cruised along the river Chao Praya River, offering views of ancient monuments amidst the modern architecture of Bangkok.
They started out at the Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar, which has grown from an obscure outlet to an iconic eatery for both locals and foreigners.
Apart from meeting its awardwinning bartender, who provided great tips on concocting drinks, they also tried their hand at making A Boy Named Panache, a refreshing cocktail made with vodka, vanilla syrup, pineapple juice, passion fruit and a splash of Heineken beer.
Next was a stopover at the Ocean Glass factory, one of Asia’s foremost glass and crystal makers.
The “Heros” learned about the variety of glassware, the processes involved, the quality differences of the various types of stemware and suitability of pairing with wines served.
Later, they had to put on their thinking caps and be creative at NightAddz, an award-winning international design firm specialis- ing in F&B premiums.
The “Heros” had to create concept drawings and see them through production at the workshop conducted over two offices of the company, located within walking distance.
Another highlight of the learning trip was a visit to the Tawandang (Red Sun, in Thai), a huge beer hall where every day is like Oktoberfest.
They saw for themselves firsthand how the beer in the first German microbrewery in Thailand is made and served with a wide spread of Thai delights.
GAB Academy manager Hemanth Jayaraman said much effort went into the planning of the programme so that the “Heros” could gain maximum benefit from the trip.
The aim was to enable them to return with a good overview of how they could enhance their practical skills and roles in the F&B industry.
“Bangkok was selected because it is known internationally for its extraordinary service levels,” said Hemanth.
“The city is also recognised as a model of innovative F&B concepts, and it offers great cultural similarity and an easy way of life. The choice proved to be right, as the “Heros” lapped up their experience, especially as some of them had not even been to Thailand before.
“The key part of the experience was that it was practical.”
The response from the “Heros” was a wholehearted approval.
For Suresh, the pinnacle of the trip, in more ways than one, was the visit to the Sirocco Sky Bar.
“It was an exhilarating experience. The rooftop bar is set against the breathtaking Bangkok skyline,” he said.
Florian, who was later picked as the best trainee and won an iPad as his prize, said the GAB Academy had provided him with keys to analyse F&B concepts, bars, outlets and customers.
“I had always thought that being in the F&B industry would enable me to travel the world. I never thought that I could actually increase my knowledge by travelling to other countries,” said Florian.
Chau, the only rose among the thorns, described the trip as lots of fun, especially being in the company of trainees and trainers.
“I also enjoyed visiting all the various bars and seeing all the different concepts,” she added.
Sudeep said it was great to be given a chance to visit all the famous outlets in Bangkok as it provided him new ideas and concepts.
“We got to see and do so many different things, like cook on a river boat and create new F&B accessory ideas at NightAddz.”
The GAB Academy is aimed at equipping trade partners and their service staff with a competitive edge through training and provision of F&B management tools and resources.
The training consists of three semesters involving classroom lessons, on-site training at outlets and off-site training.
Service staff who take part in the programme are monitored and appraised to stand a chance to win the Heros of the Year award.