Constantly challenge yourself
Published: Jun 14, 2013
Name: Charon A. McKenzie
Position: Junior sous chef, Lyford Cay Club
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the ourism sector and what your role is today?
Charon: In the tourism industry, they say that the people who greet the visitors are the most important. Although the first impression is a lasting impression, I feel that everyone is important. As a chef in the tourism sector, I feel that my role is very important because I can offer the guest a taste of The Bahamas and offer them a memorable and wide scope of dishes that would make them come back again and again to experience all of the many different dishes that we have to offer. If I cannot impress them with a Bahamian dish, my versatile skills allow me to recreate something they might want from their native land or any other country they may fancy. This I feel would impress the tourist and they could take a step back and say “I tried the Bahamian way and because I became homesick, a chef went above and beyond the call of duty to create something to put me in my comfort zone.”
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Charon: I chose to enter the tourism arena because I feel that the industry needs courteous professionals to continue to promote the brand "Bahamas" and then take it to a whole other level. There are so many people that are in the industry for the money, those who are not willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. If we want people to come back and bring their friends we have to bring the best products and people to the forefront because everyone knows there is nothing worse than bad publicity.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Charon: The most memorable moment for me in my career was being a part of the team that cooked lunch for his Royal Highness Prince Harry who visited the Bahamas for the Queen's 60th jubilee. I did not get an opportunity to meet him but not many people can boast such a feat. It gave me a great sense of pride and this is a story I tell my kids and will tell my grand kids. It was a moment I won't soon forget.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Charon: The industry has change substantially since I entered the field. Things I learned growing up cooking and things I did 10 years ago when I started out in the industry evolved. There are different ways to prepare things, the competition is very fierce and you have to keep educating yourself to keep current and to learn about the latest trends so you can be up to date on dishes and trends that may be requested. I feel that knowledge is power and the more you can contribute in terms of making a meal more magical for a visitor the better we look as a country.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Charon: I think that the Bahamas should continue to educate the professionals and bring in chefs from other countries and resorts to train and bring different cutting edge techniques. Continue to send chefs off to competitions to gather an international experience. Implement more culinary courses so that chefs have a better opportunity to enter the industry. I feel that Bahamian chefs need to be offered more consideration for sponsorship; by this, I mean chefs are not respected and appreciated half as much as a track and field athlete. I feel once we as chefs break this barrier, we will be able to take our game to an entirely different level and show the world just how talented we are. After all, there is a culinary division in the Olympics so we have to be competitive so stay above the rest.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Charon: Be knowledgeable of your product and techniques and constantly challenge yourself. Always try to educate yourself and learn new things. Try to learn every aspect of the field so that you can be versatile and can branch out even further. Always be prompt and courteous. Have respect for all your peers and that respect will take you to the top. Motivate others the way a chef motivated you. Don't just settle for just being a kitchen helper. Reach for the sky so that you will become the greatest executive chef.
Caribe 2016 Cleveland