Dennis Cummins in Costa Rica

Common knowledge: Fish Starts to Rot from the Head

…  or how to have excellent managers and leadership at small sustainable luxury hotels in remote locations.

Our guests at the Cayuga Collection Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges rave about our staff.  They love the efficient and professional service and comments especially on how friendly, authentic and genuine the service experience is.  This is no coincidence.  We spend a lot of time in training and motivation of our staff and team leaders and pay even more attention to training our top level managers.

The saying that “fish starts to rot from the head” is something that we have very present and we make sure that those heads are “fresh and unspoiled”.  Unless we have excellent leadership at the hotels by our managers, there is no world class service delivery and things start to disintegrate.

Cayuga Team after practical culinary training
Cayuga Corporate and Management Team. Top, left to right: Jorge, Howard, Alejandra, Jose Pablo, Ana Maria, Douglas, Monica, Maria Jose, Irene, Marijke, Jose Pablo, Andrea, Alfonso, Eduardo. Bottom left to right: Daniel, Mauricio, Martin, Monica, Andres, Ana Catalina.

Here is an example of how we train and motivate our management staff.  These kind of events happen about four times per year with a different focus each time.  An earlier event this year focused on sustainability and last week it was all about Food & Beverage Management.

We started off by a morning of classroom style training at the Sabores Culinary Training Center in Escazu, San Jose.  The most important topic covered was food safety and hygiene but also techniques, equipment and kitchen vocabulary.  Do you know what “mise-en-place” means?

Food and Beverage Training
Classroom style lecture on Food and Beverage related Topics.  For many of us it felt like going back to university.  Thanks Chef Gustavo for making this part very interactive and fun.

After the practical part (nobody fell asleep), we passed to the more fun part.  How to scale and filet fish, judge the freshness of the seafood that is delivered to our hotels and prepare in a way that brings out the best of those delicate ingredients.  We learned the same about poultry and beef which are other components on our menus.

Culinary Techniques on how to deal with seafood
Practical demonstration on the correct handling of seafood which is a very important part of the culinary offering at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Resorts.  Very present in this picture, the management team of Kura Design Villas in Uvita.

Doing it ourselves!  The only way that we are able to supervise the production of food in our kitchen is if we understand the processes and know what it takes to prepare a great meal.  Culinary arts are not taught in a classroom setting.

Culinary Training at Sabores, Escazu
Howard, GM of Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua and Jorge, GM of Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio in culinary training preparing a blue cheese Bechamel sauce from scratch.

Day one completed successfully.  After all the theory and practical excercises, we actually got to eat what we cooked.  Fish was as fresh as it gets.  No bad smells recognizable…the heads were all very intact.  Do you recognize any of the managers under those chef hats and hair nets?

Cayuga Hotels love Costa Rica Craft Beers
Fabiana, from Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company during her presentation on Craft Beers to the Cayuga Team.  We love the Segua and Libertas microbrews and are excited about the third brand coming out in January:  Malacrianza a Scotish Ale.

The next day, we met for a session of cost control & strategy and menu planing in the morning and by lunch time, we got to the fun part of the day.  Beer pairing with a great lunch offered by Chef Luis Protti in his house in Barrio Aranjuez and Fabiana from Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company, the makers of Libertas and Segua.

Cayuga Lunch at Luis Protti's house
The team savoring a different kind of lunch in a beautiful setting with beer pairing. Yes, this is considered work at Cayuga.  Learning about food and beverage trends to make sure we offer the best possible culinary experience to our guests.

In the afternoon, we also had sessions on specialty teas and organic coffee presented by local experts before we headed to the final activity of the evening.  A traditional Gala Dinner at the Restaurant of the Hotel Grano de Oro.  Many of our managers who live in rural areas of Costa Rica don’t have access to formal events and we wanted to show them culinary experiences that many of our hotel and lodge guests experience at home where they live.  So we dressed up…

Gala Dinner at the Grano de Oro Hotel
We never dress like this. You are more likely to see us in casual shirts, shorts, flip flops or hiking boots at work. But it was a great event for all of us and a very special dinner prepared by our colleagues at the Grano de Oro Hotel.

Great managers don’t grow on trees, they are formed.  Especially if the corporate philosophy is to work with a 100% local workforce.  Next time you stay at a Cayuga Collection Sustainable Luxury Hotel or Lodge, ask about the training programs that are happening every year and how important that is to the managers professional development and motivation.  We are already planning our next Cayuga Managers’s Get Together for 2015.  Stay tuned…

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