Travel & Tourism

August 2, 2013

No room for lazy people in hospitality business — Okusi

No room for lazy people in hospitality business — Okusi

Okusi

BY JIMOH BABATUNDE

Taibat Morenike Okusi is an all rounder in the hospitality industry in Nigeria, having served in all sections ranging from front office to house keeping before berthing in the kitchen. The Ogun State born chef grew  up always wanting to be a cook, so it was not surprising that she bagged degrees in Hotel and Catering Management from Kwara state Polytechnic   and Ogun state university. As one of the senior executive chefs at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Okusi in this interview, shares her experience and what it takes to be a good chef.  Here is an excerpt:

On why she went into catering
I had always loved cooking. I remember telling my mates in my primary school that I will want to be a cook. I have always had the passion for the profession as I love cooking.

When we were growing up, most of the cooking at home was done by my mum, so whenever she cooked, she invites us to the kitchen especially the local dish of my people. From that tender age, I developed  interest in cooking.

On the first food she learnt how to cook
The first food I learnt to cook was my local dish called ikokore. It is prepared from wateryam and very delicious.

On what her training look like
It was very difficult as you have lots of courses to take apart from the main courses in hotel management. We did  lots of borrowed courses in management. We took courses in statistics, chemistry and economics and computer among others. It was different from what people thought.

Okusi

Okusi

On working experience
When I graduated from Kwara poly  there was an advert in the paper for jobs in then Durbar hotel. I applied as a receptionist and was employed. So, I have worked in the reception, house keeping, and reservation.

When I left the hotel in 1993 after spending about 10years, I moved down to Lagos Airport  hotel. On getting here, I was in house keeping before I was moved to the kitchen.  I have spent almost 10 years in the kitchen now.

Working in the kitchen is difficult as it takes more of your time.  There are some functions here in the hotel that you need to stay for up to three days without going home.  There are times you put all it takes into preparing a meal at the end the feed back will not be encouraging.

This is so because of the different tastes of people, some will appreciate while others  will not, but we are used to it. I see it as a challenge when I get such feedbacks.

On her greatest moment in the kitchen
The greatest moment for me was a time my boss was not around and I acted for him.  When the head of  department saw what I achieved, he was so impressed and those we cooked for were also impressed; they were full of commendations.

On her food philosophy
My food philosophy is when you eat, you eat right. Eating right to me means taking food in moderation and what is beneficiary to your health. Some people eat, but don’t eat right.

When you are growing old there are certain foods like snacks you don’t need to eat.  You need more of fruits and vegetable so that you have long life

On her favourite dish on the menu
It is Edikaikon, though it is an Efik recipe, but when you eat it, it is purely vegetable.  It is very rich with  snails and  fish.  It conforms  with my philosophy of eating right.

On cooking tips for a novice
I like them to start from the scratch; they should learn the basis of the food they want to prepare. They should know the nutrient value to the body.  As starters they need theory too as that will aid their being able to put the theories to practise.

On advice to young people coming into the profession
I will ask them to love what they are doing as it is when they have passion for it that they will excel. I will advice them not to be lazy as the lazy ones have no place in this industry, because there are times you work  24 hours non stop.

If you have the passion and zeal for what you do, you will excel. Apart from working for someone, it is a profession you can be self employed.

Don’t also think about money first, think of winning the confidence of your clients before any other thing.

On the food culture of Nigerian
Our food is rich, but people want to copy others by wanting to eat foreign food. I will tell you that Nigeria food are natural without additives and with little money you get something nutritious.

On her best cooking gadget
It is the gas cooker, it has four burners and if you have  set of meals to prepare all you need to do is place your pots on all, in no time your food is ready.

In catering time is number one and very important.  If your meal is to be set for say 2pm your already your customers are waiting and if you are not ready they may lose their appetite and might not eat the food.

So with the four burners, you can get different course meal ready at the same time. So the gas is the best gadget I like to use

On the food at airport hotel
I will tell you we are the best in the industry, not because I work here but from the feedbacks from guests and customers.  I will tell you we are the best.

On what she eats at home
I eat vegetable and eba, but most often you don’t have the appetite to eat much after seeing all the food at the hotel.

There was a time we had a function here that I had to prepare up to half a million snails, for a very long time I could not eat snail, just because I saw it so much.