Gérard Sintès is the general manager of the 131-bedroom One&Only resort in Cape Town, home to Gordon Ramsay Holdings' first restaurant in Africa. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about the property, which opens on Friday (3 April)
Caterer How is the One&Only different from other resorts in South Africa?
Gérard Sintès One of the big differences is that we are very much catering for the local market. The property includes a 1500sq m spa, a main lobby bar and two internationally acclaimed restaurants - Nobu and Gordon Ramsay Holdings' (GRH) Maze - and 131 bedrooms won't fill these every day. We want the hotel to be the place to be for local people, so it's very open and visitors won't be asked if they are residents. Also, 99% of staff have been recruited locally, and all the design elements - from the staff uniforms to the art gallery - are from South African designers.
Caterer How have you recruited your staff?
GS We have been advertising locally and nationally since March last year. We've received around 4,000 CVs and I am very much involved in the selection process, in the sense that I have interviewed everyone from the kitchen porters to the concierge. We have also employed political refugees from other African countries, including Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Caterer The resort is opening six months ahead of schedule. Did this present any particular challenges?
GS It just meant that we have had to do things more quickly but as I have been here since March last year it hasn't been too tricky. The vast majority of our materials are from South Africa, so it's not like we've had to wait months for them to be shipped in from abroad. In terms of recruitment, we just had to speed it up a bit.
Caterer Why did you choose Gordon Ramsay and Nobu for the restaurants over local operators?
GS It's mainly to do with the quality associated with these brands. They are both internationally acclaimed restaurant groups and it's fantastic that they are launching their first African ventures with us. In line with the resort, both restaurants are also very much focused on the local market and are making use of seasonal local produce. Sushi is a massive part of the Cape Town dining scene, as is the concept of small plates, so Nobu and Maze cater perfectly for the local market. However, the restaurants are operated by us, and GRH and Nobu are consultants.
Caterer How is African hospitality different from that in the UK or Europe?
GS South Africa probably isn't immediately associated with hospitality, but there is such enthusiasm in its culture for serving others. My challenge is to bring this out in the staff and to encourage them to do the best job they can.