Maropeng’s food and beverage managers make a seamless team
Thousands of tourists flock to South Africa each year to see “the big five”. But at Maropeng, rather than requiring you to squint into the bush from a 4x4 to catch a glimpse of them, the big five will serve you cocktails at the pool or a delicious meal at the Tumulus Restaurant.
Dubbed “the big five”, the food and beverage team at Maropeng are a dynamic and highly capable group who welcome any challenge that is thrown at them.
Maropeng Managing Director Tony Rubin says, “From an enthusiasm and motivation point of view, they are the most motivated management team I have ever worked with.
“They are such a committed bunch of people, nothing is too much trouble for them. You can put everything in their hands and it will get done. I sleep well at night knowing I’ve got them here,” he continues.
The “big five” – also known as the A-team – are Patrick Mutavhatsindi, the food and beverage manager, Peter Langa, head chef, Khathu Negondeni, hotel manager, Paul Mabuza, food and beverage controller, and Peter Mhanaza, assistant food and beverage manager.
Mutavhatsindi says, “Since we came together as a team, spirits have been high and it’s as if people are newly baptised – newly confident, really on the ball, proactive and always available. It makes the running of the department easy!”
There is real camaraderie in the food and beverage team – patent respect, friendship and enjoyment of one another’s company.
“There is nowhere that we fail, because we work as a team,” says Mabuza. “We are very friendly to each other and even talk on the phone when we are at home.”
Mabuza, who joined the Maropeng team in July 2009, could have ended up in a very different career. When he went to college, his father wanted him to study agricultural engineering, but he had other ideas. When he came back with a food and beverage diploma, his father wasn’t disappointed. “Go for it!” he said. “Wherever people go, they eat!”
And what better place to eat than the Tumulus Restaurant at Maropeng, the official visitor centre of the Cradle of Humankind? “The architecture makes it unique,” says Langa proudly. “You’d never know the restaurant was there until you got inside. It has a beautiful view and the food and customer service make it special.”
Langa’s favourite dish to serve at the restaurant as head chef is fillet steak with mashed potato and cranberry sauce with a touch of balsamic reduction. And the most popular cocktail at Maropeng? The strawberry daiquiri.
He believes what makes Maropeng special has a lot to do with the management. “They take care of the staff and we make sure that we take care of the company too,” he says. “Here, you are given the opportunity to be who you are. If the managing director can see that you are capable of doing something, he gives you that room to grow.”
Maropeng Marketing Manager Erica Saunders testifies to the growth of the food and beverage team, as three of the five members were developed at Maropeng.
“Peter M started as a ticket cashier, Patrick as assistant food and beverage manager and Peter L as sous chef,” she says. “Their key skill areas were identified and they were assisted in developing themselves. Paul and Khathu have great experience and they complement the other three gents – and now we have a product which we call the ‘A-team’.
“You can see the energy between them – this is who makes things happen at Maropeng. They are great role models for junior members of staff,” she adds.
Mhanaza believes they are referred to as the “A-team” because they are the first point of contact.
“We are the decision makers,” he says. “We make sure that the events are booked properly and that everything goes according to arrangement. We are the ones that run the show.”
What is special about this team is that they don’t view anything as beyond (or beneath) their job description.
“I am the assistant food and beverage manager, but if I see that the chefs are busy I will also help out. I help serve and clear tables – I do everything,” says Mhanaza.
It is this attitude that Negondeni believes makes the team what it is. “We work as a family,” he says. “Even though I’m over at the hotel, the support I get from the team is unbelievable.
“I wonder if there’s any percentage above 100%?” he jokes. “I don’t have a minute when I regret being at Maropeng” – or being one-fifth of the “A-team”, it would seem.
Why not have your end of year function at Maropeng and let this highly capable and dynamic team look after you and your event?