Stephanus Oberholzer has been working as an Executive Chef at Kigali Marriott Hotel for one month. He has worked almost in all parts of the world including Europe, Asia, West Africa and South Africa in culinary sector and ended up in Kigali. Having more than 15 years’ experience in culinary, Oberholzer, 34, has worked with some of the most prestigious hotels and training schools in Europe, South Africa and West Africa. To capture the rationale behind his success, The New Times’ Ange Iliza and Glory Iribagiza exclusively interviewed him. Below are the excerpts. What are the roles of an executive chef? Anything to do with food and culinary, one must know the fundamentals of hygiene, operations, modifying or creating menus and mentoring his team ensuring overall guest satisfaction. One important point for a chef is a strong foundation in a young chef’s career and the first 10 years are crucial. The harder you work the better you become but it requires patience. As an executive chef, I have to emphasize all the above daily, support and mentor my team because my team’s failures and successes reflect a lot on me. What is a typical day for a chef? It is definitely always exciting to start my day (says this with a smile), as I tackle new tasks and situations on a daily basis. My typical day is waking up early, with a good and positive attitude for the day. As soon as I get to the hotel, I check events we have for the day; I do my rounds in the hotel, greeting the team, checking on them in every kitchen making sure everything is set for the day, breakfast quality, hygiene and all the details. What is your secret to success? I would say teamwork. Developing and training young professionals, chefs and managers is something I take pride in doing. Contributing to your team’s success is definitely the key because working towards a goal without a team is an almost impossible task. Watching people grow and become the best in their profession is an amazing thing to experience as a leader, and in the end this makes your team the best in what they do hence reflecting on you. How would you describe your style of cooking? My style of cooking depends on which country I am in. I enjoy creating new meals around people’s taste and local flair. Keeping the same style and method for creatives such as chefs is a tough one, as our day-to-day tasks involve creating and experimenting with new recipes and making sure you exceed guest expectations every time they visit your place of work. As a chef I have to explore new styles, trends and make sure, I am up to date with everything related to culinary arts. Being this way has helped me learn so much from people I have worked with and I am always excited to share the same knowledge with my team everywhere I go. What is your signature dish as an Executive Chef? Being South African we love meat being the centerpiece for every meal hence my favorite signature dishes are anything that involves meat especially barbecue. How did you develop your passion for cooking? I realized my love for culinary when I was 16, and started official training at the age of 18 as I transitioned into hospitality. A short list in my family shares the same passion such as my grandmother who used to be in hospitality as a manager of a hotel and a cousin who is currently pursuing a career as a chef. I enjoyed listening to my grandmother sharing her experience as a youngster and it is wonderful having people in the family who share my passion for hospitality. What are Kigali Marriots unique dining experiences? With four different outlets in the hotel, we definitely have a bit of everything for everyone, from specialized meals, tasty pastries, to international cuisines. It all depends on the guest, what they are in the mood for on a particular day. If it is a family event, we have places where children can play with an outdoor pool; we also have places where you can enjoy a cold beer or wine with great pairings with friends or venues to hold functions such as weddings, parties, meetings and all sorts of celebrations and we cater for the needs. We have an all-day dining restaurant – Soko, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with international cuisine on both the buffet and a la carte menu, so for someone who wants to experience a bit of everything, Soko Restaurant is the place to be. For Italian cuisine enthusiasts we have Cucina Restaurant, as a chef, I highly recommend you try our pizzas among other things you should try at Cucina (he said with a smile). Iriba bar and terrace, is a chill or out of office workspace as we serve quick meals such as burgers, sandwiches, brochettes with refreshments of your choice at any time of the day and on evenings we tend to have live performances that guests quite enjoy. Finally yet importantly, sarabi pool bar for a calm hangout by the pool. Do you think Rwandans enjoy culinary experiences? Yes, I do. I have been here one month and one thing I noticed about Rwandans is that people enjoy meals as families, which makes it better for us because we are a very family friendly hotel with meals and activities put together particularly for kids. So I would say, yes. Rwandans enjoy different flavors of cooking. Did you notice anything about Rwandan chefs? What I have noticed so far especially with my team is that they are hardworking, dedicated, eager to learn and passionate chefs. I also noticed the entire Kigali Marriott Hotel team is very patient and that is a great discipline to have in hospitality. I am pleased to be in the company of such a passionate team and I am definitely looking forward to the future with excitement of all the things we will create and accomplish together during my time at the hotel. What are your aspirations? This takes me back to training and developing my team, I aspire to build the best team and I very much look forward to achieving that right here in Kigali-Rwanda. As a new Kigali Marriott Hotel Executive chef, what are your plans for the future? My plan for Kigali Marriott Hotel is to create irresistible cuisines and offers to keep our guests curiously coming back for more and make sure we are delivering the best experience in town.