Ten Minutes with Tatenda Gwiriri – Head Waiter at Atholplace Hotel & Villa

You are now the Head Waiter at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa...tell us how started in the hospitality business?  I come from the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe and have a wife and two beautiful daughters. Growing up, I always wanted to work in the hospitality industry especially hotels. In 2005 I came to South Africa and I landed a job in an Italian restaurant as a barman and this was the beginning of my career.

What was the next chapter in your story? I learnt a lot from the restaurant but my ambition was to experience the hotel side of hospitality.  I applied for a waitering job at The Grace in Rosebank which is now known as 54 ON BATH.  That hotel underwent some changes and I heard of an opportunity at the Westcliff Hotel which was then  part of the Orient Express portfolio. When the Westcliff was sold to the Four Seasons group I joined an event company (Blackjack Events) as a front of house coordinator.

 How were you introduced to the Morukuru Family? Blackjack Events was involved with the opening function for AtholPlace Hotel & Villa. Luckily for me I met the manager and he was impressed with my service - I was looking after the VIPs including Mr & Mrs Zeeman (owners of  Morukuru Family). At the end of the night he gave me his business card and asked me if I could call him the following morning. He offered me a job as a butler at the hotel which was an opportunity of a lifetime! It's been a great pleasure working for the hotel.

How has AtholPlace Hotel & Villa encouraged you in your career and have you been able to improve your knowledge and skills with in-house training?  AtholPlace Hotel & Villa has supported me a lot in my career. I have learnt a great deal from the chefs and other staff and my knowledge of food has improved. My understanding of wine has increased and I have been trained up on the use of computer system.  All of these new and improved skills means I have the confidence to tackle difficult situations.

 Serving guests can be a difficult  business - do you have any special tricks of the trade that allow you to smooth things over? I recommend always having a beautiful smile on your face! It really helps when dealing with people. A positive attitude and a willingness to go the extra mile adds to the guest experience.

 Tell us how you mentor and encourage the less experienced members of your team? I sit them down and in a friendly manner explain some  of the basics. Most importantly the concept of team work must be taken seriously. I know together we can achieve a lot if we respect and support each other. Secondly it is crucial that everyone knows that if they are unsure of anything they can ask for guidance. It is also important that staff feel confident in their roles - so I encourage that too. Trust between colleagues is also hugely important.

You need to have an in depth knowledge of the menu...do you spend a lot of time with the kitchen team learning and understanding the dishes…? Our head chef, Scott Dressels, educates all serving staff about his menu. I enjoy supporting our kitchen team and have learnt some of their skills which I am able to use when called upon. For example if guests want to enjoy dessert late in the evening - I’m happy to take over this role and free up my colleagues. This comes back to our strong teamwork ethic.

Which menu item would you order from the Chef?  Definitely pork belly - our chef’s signature dish!

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa is part of Relais & Châteaux ...that is a prestigious accolade.    You must be very proud to be part of the team that embodies the values of this highly recognised global group? I am so proud to call myself a family member of AtholPlace Hotel & Villa as well as Relais & Châteaux!  It encourages me to want to contribute more and more  - to support my work family. I know this is my home.