Tuesday, 28 March 2017

An opportunity to see the world

By Caroline Calleja

In 2011 I decided I wanted to start travelling, meet new people and broaden my horizons. What better way to do this than with Workaway International!

I was hired as a hostess and even though I did not have a lot of experience in hospitality, I decided to be open-minded. I ended up enjoying every minute of it. I worked hard and met the love of my life, whom I later married.

I came back to South Africa after 6 long months of hosting however I knew I had to go back. I completed a season in Florida and New York, where I was asked to be a server.  After that, I ‘climbed the ladder’ to Server Captain and then Assistant Dining Room Manager and during my season in New York, I ran the front desk. 

I did this for three years and traveled every second I could. I visited 20 States, including Las Vegas, California, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston - the list goes on.  All while working hard and saving money.

On my return to South Africa, I assisted with the opening of a restaurant and private members club in Cape Town and ran the restaurant for a while. I would not have been able to come back to South Africa and receive such a key position in a new establishment if it was not for the opportunity Workaway International has given me. I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge and with Workaway International's continuous encouragement and motivation, anything is possible.

Thank you Workaway International for paving the road of my career! 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Finish strong and share your Workaway International experience!

By Marvin Seekoei

Dear fellow Workaway International participants

By now most of you have probably finalized your northern jobs.

Passover and Easter will be as busy as Christmas and Thanksgiving, so look after yourself so that you can give that last bit of energy and dedication. Communicate with your current club and your northern club and see if you can take a small break in-between. Maybe do a road trip to your northern club, and explore a few of the beautiful towns in the USA. Enjoy your northern placement and save as much as you can so that when you come back, you can enjoy Florida even more.

To those who were not lucky this time, remember that going home does not mean the end of the world. The most important thing is that you finish strong. It is not how you start a race but how you finish it.

If you have decided to head home, share your experience with your family and friends. Stay in contact with Workaway International and recommend the experience to as many people as you can. We would love to invite you to the upcoming presentations so that you can meet potential participants, tell them about your experience and vouch for your country club.

My second season was my favourite as I had my best friend with me on the programme. We recommended our country club to many of the potential participants at the presentation and in turn made some amazing friends. Some of them even moved into the same apartment as us!

Good luck over the upcoming summer season and all of the best with your future endeavors.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Never stop chasing your dreams!

By Chef Wandile Mabaso

Workaway International hosted a presentation at my Culinary School a few years ago. They were looking for young, ambitious cooks to send to five star country clubs in the USA. I saw a great opportunity but I never imagined that it would be the beginning of a long and hard but fruitful journey - and not in a million years did I think it would take me this far in life!

Three months later, I arrived at the Miami International Airport, ready to start my journey in Florida, USA. My first season was at the BallenIsles Country Club. I started at the bottom of the kitchen and made a lot of friends and experienced new things. I then received an opportunity to work in New York at a popular French restaurant.

I worked my way up within the French restaurant scene in New York, going from one restaurant to the next, looking for new challenges and searching for new knowledge and techniques. I moved on, to work in French-Korean fusion and French-Japanese Fusion restaurants. I was in the circle of the great French chefs and I was not searching for jobs any more. It was now a game of referrals.

After a long, hard four years in New York, I managed to reach executive sous chef level for a famous legendary French chef. I was working for a huge French restaurant group that was expanding. I was part of the team that helped open seven restaurants in two years. In between everything else, I trained in Michelin 2 and 3-star restaurants such as Le Bernadin. Then, I was introduced to the great chef Alain Ducasse. I worked for him during his promotional dinner for his book "Je T’aime NY". At the time, he was looking for a candidate to represent French cuisine in regions like South Africa. After months of talks and planning, I moved to Paris to work at the prestigious Michelin 2-star Le Meurice restaurant. After a year of extremely hard work, I felt ready to move to the next level.

Things were finally starting to pay off as there was a buzz about my cooking and my story around South Africa. I was getting a lot of attention from the media. The French ambassador then invited me to be the guest of honour at the Good France event at the French residency in Pretoria. This is where it all began for me – I had great ideas and lots of business opportunities waiting for me in South Africa.

My mission now is to revolutionize the way people dine in South Africa, share knowledge with young cooks and inspire others. If a kid from the dusty streets of Soweto can do it, you can do it too! No excuses. I never forget where I started or where I came from so I am grateful to Workaway International for being part of the journey.

My advice to all the potential participants is to have fun but do not take your current situation for granted; you have the opportunity to take your life to the next level. Always think big and never stop dreaming. Never listen to "dream killers ". Never get comfortable and always challenge yourself to be better than the day before - only then will you grow to levels you never imagined.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Foundation of success!

By Chante and Edridge-Ernest Johnson

In 2011 myself and my now husband enrolled into the Workaway International programme – it was the best decision we ever made! We worked in a Florida Country Club for the first 6 months and then moved up north in Philadelphia for the next 6 months. 

Our experience with Workaway International was amazing. We got to travel around the USA and it was here where we found our passion for hospitality. The Country Clubs were beautiful and had the highest quality of service.

In 2012, we returned back to South Africa and knew that we had to pursue a hospitality career because of the experience we had in America. We would not allow ourselves to do anything else. Within two weeks we landed jobs as a Food & Beverage Manager / Supervisor, we received these jobs due to our experience on the Workaway International programme.

We then decided to travel some more and journeyed abroad to Dubai where we worked as a Restaurant Manager and Training & Development Manager. A year later, I became pregnant with our first daughter and we decided to head back to South Africa to raise her among family. The experiences in the US and Dubai allowed us to save a lot of money which then helped us start our own business.

We opened Elite Hospitality Training on the 1st of February 2017; it is a company that offers different training for positions in the hospitality industry.  We would never have pursued this industry if it was not for the Workaway International programme. We would not be where we are today without this amazing door into the hospitality industry. Thanks Workaway International!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

You only live once - YOLO

By Emma Seager

I have started venturing out and making the most of my time in Florida. Off days are few and far between, so when you get them you really need to make the most of it!

I have been lucky enough to go to Disney World recently, enjoyed a four hour trip to Tampa and swam with the Manatees. It was honestly a once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful to be here and have this opportunity. There is no doubt that we work hard on the program, however, we also receive the chance to see and do things that is not possible without us being here.

We visited a few different springs in Tampa and it is out of this world! We went to Devils Den Spring, among others, and I had an incredible time. You really do not know true beauty until you see it in its natural form; I have never seen anything so beautiful.

Universal Studios was another check off my bucket list and something incredible to experience. The attention to detail is beyond amazing. I am a slight Harry Potter fan and Universal Studios brings it all to life in a way words cannot even describe.

We are coming to the last few weeks of our time in Florida! It has gone very quickly! I am lucky enough to have been placed at a club up North in Long Island and I'm in the process of organizing my extension. A few of my Boca West friends have been accepted to the same club which is really awesome. I cannot wait to explore New York with them!