Monday, November 18, 2013

Miguel Chan updated profile on Linkedin November 2013

I was raised in a family involved in restaurants and hotels with both my dad and grandfather being excellent and successful chefs, it was natural to follow their path in some way or another.

After my secondary educations in Mauritius, I went to the Seychelles and spent 2 years working holiday between 1995 and 1997, on Praslin Island, making pizza and other kitchen task, as well as lots of fishing, (my hobby) during my free time.

I knew my vocations back then will be in the hospitality industry, but gradually I was more enthusiastic in front of house task, dealing with restaurant and bar patrons, nevertheless I have not forgotten my first love that is cooking up a storm whenever I have free time.

I began shaping my career formally in June 1997 when I was successfully admitted at the Hotel School of Mauritius, an annual intake of only 24 students out of around 800 applicants.

I completed my CAP (Certificat d ‘Aptitude Professionel or NTC 3 as it was known then) in the first year interspersed with practical training at La Pirogue Hotel, Sugar Beach Resorts and Royal Palm.

On completion, I was offered a job as a commis waiter at Royal Palm, where I worked dinner shifts in their high paced a la carte restaurant, learning the rudimentary of the professions.

I stayed for 9 months until I was accepted to complete by BEP (Brevet d ‘Etudes Professionnel, or NTC 2), back at the Hotel School of Mauritius, only 12 candidates are taken on an annual basis.

During my second year, I decided to specialized myself in Beverage Science, Oenology and Cost Control, as main subject, that’s how at the age of 21, I realize wine and the beverage world will be my main focus, I was hooked on the subject. Deep down I always wanted to be a sommelier.

In between my schooling and training I did a practical at Le Touessrok Hotel, as well as back to Royal Palm, as it was and still considered one of the finest and toughest place (in a good way) to learn the job, the discipline was legendary, everything was about perfections in every task, we lived and breath service, it was never about the pay cheques, a true university of life indeed.

After completion of my second year I joined The Oberoi Mauritius as F&B Assistant as part of their pre-opening teams, a great experience honing my service skills as well as the huge organizational aspect and thrills of being part of a new five star hotel, learning it the Oberoi Way, teaching us invaluable lesson in humility and attention to details.

Towards the end of 2001, I joined Happy World Foods, now renamed as Innodis Group as their sales representative looking predominantly after HORECA clients and assisting in developing their wine portfolio from Australia, New Zealand’s and South Africa, after 2 years I decided to get back to the hotel industry.

In October 2003 I was appointed as the Wine Bar Manager for one of South Africa’s finest boutique hotel, with their restaurant The Greenhouse consistently amongst the top 10 in the country, Relais & Chateaux member The Cellars Hohenort Hotel in Constantia Valley, Cape Town, I work my way to be promoted as Head Sommelier and later Beverage Manager, managing one of the most extensive beverage program until June 2009.

During my time at The Cellars Hohenort Hotel, I gradually and humbly built a trusting name within the wine industry, first as a tasting co-coordinator for Swiss Airlines International Wine Awards, as well as being invited to contribute as a taster / judge on various publications and shows, namely Wine Magazine SA, Taste, Food & Home, Visi, Platter South African Wine Guide, Trophy Wine Show, Classic Wine Trophy / La Revue du Vin de France, South African Airways Onboard selections, Nederburg Auction, WOSA Sommelier World Cup, FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc challengeABSA Top 10 Pinotage, Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, Chardonnay Celebrations and Veritas Wine Awards.

Today I participate in very few in those formal tastings, as simply there is no time on hand, first because I am based in Johannesburg and secondly with my young family, I’d rather spent the little time I have free with them.

In 2008 I formalized my Sommelier title with a successful certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers UK.

One of the greatest achievement of my career was being selected in 2007 to represent South Africa at the inaugural Chaines des Rotisseurs International Young Sommeliers World Final in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as being recognized a year later by Diners Club International Wine List Award in creating South Africa's overall National Best Wine list, a feat repeated in 2011, which was the first time in the history of the award was given to a hotel, restaurant in Johannesburg.

In July 2009, I relocated to Johannesburg, being appointed by Tsogo Sun, Southern Africa leading hotels, gaming and entertainment group, as their Group Sommelier, it was the start of a new and exciting chapter, a position I am holding until now, with my day to day tasks, besides floor time and critical events, working closely with F&B and culinary team of each properties across South Africa, developing award winning wine lists with recognition of no less than 6 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Wine Lists Awards and 1 Best Award of Excellence, also a first for a Johannesburg hotel.

In 2012 I was one of the founding members and part of the Executive Committee, of the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA), a much needed body to promote the profession and raised more awareness amongst hoteliers and restaurateur.

I have since October relinquish my total involvement with SASA and the board, but will remain as a non active member, with an open door policy and assistance to any aspiring young wine waiter / sommeliers, needing guidance, mentoring and support.

My specialties and strength are staff training in beverage knowledge, tutored wine tasting and presentations, Martini experience, wine lists and beverage menus engineering, wine buying strategy and procurement and beverage management.

18 years down the road, when I looked back, I love the fact that I started right at the bottom of the ladder, and this have given me invaluable insights and have forged my character of who I am today and have directly contributed to my successful career to date.