Friday, April 26, 2013

I hardly eat at home – Chef Hounsa

LUCIEN Hounsa is a proud chef. His father was a chef and his eldest son  is also a chef. Though he never dreamt of being one, but his father’s  insistence  forced him into the profession in his native country of Benin Republic. Today, Lucien Hounsa is the Executive Chef of  Ibis Hotel, Lagos with experience garnered over  forty years  in different African countries.
In this interview with JIMOH BABATUNDE, Hounsa said he finds it difficult entering the kitchen at home and urged Nigerians to ensure they have at least a chef in the family. Here is an excerpt from the interview .
ON his journey to being a chef
After my secondary school  in Cotonou, Benin Republic, I went to the catering school of  Hotel Des Deputes, Porto Novo also in Benin Republic. Luckily for me, I came from a family of chefs, my father was one and my son is also a chef . I have  never in my life dreamt of being a chef . I wanted to become an engineer, a scientist but my father always said  he wanted me to come into the profession, being a chef .
Seeing the suffering my dad went through as a chef then, I said there was no way I will  become a chef too, not knowing that with time it will become a sort after profession.  Today, cooking is a sort after profession . That was how I became a chef, after my secondary education  I went to the  catering school based on the insistence of my dad , I started working as apprentice cook  in Hotel Des Deputes  in 1962 and I was there till 1966. After  my apprentice I was employed in the same hotel as a Commis, a kitchen helper.
Chef Hounsa
Chef Hounsa
As a commis,  you do all the small jobs in the kitchen like peeling potatoes,  the vegetables and so on. After a year as a kitchen assistant , I was promoted to be a cook  and that it has I progressed until I came  to Lagos  in 1972 . In Lagos , I worked for Nigeria Catering hotels , they had a  Panache restaurant in Mainland Hotel, they had Cassa pepper restaurant in Palmgrove  among other restaurants they had then. I became  one of the  chefs controlling the restaurant.
From there I  moved to Eko Hotel in 1977 when it was opened , I was  there for ten years , it was there I met the present GM of Ibis  hotel, Richard Robaix.  After ten years there, I was transferred back to my country Benin republic to open  another Novo Hotel in Cotonou.  I was  there for another ten years  before I retired, after  my retirement I went to Burkina Faso  where I opened an hotel, I worked for three years  before going back to Cotonou.
Six months later  I was  back in Lagos to join Planet One in Maryland, I was there for nine months from where  I went to another  hotel in Lekki . I did not spend more than six months there  because of the standards of the hotel. It was while there that the GM  of this hotel who I had worked with in the past told me not to leave Nigeria again as they were working on this hotel then. After a year, he called me to come over  and that was  how I came here to open the restaurant in 2011.
Coping as a young chef and the first thing he learnt how to cook
The first thing I learnt how to cook  was vegetable, potatoes to be precise.  From preparation to cooking , there is technique for cooking .
On the best food he likes preparing
They are so many, but  one which many chefs will see as being simple is spaghetti , but it is not as simple as many thought. There are many ways to prepare Spaghetti. It is not supposed to be over cooked, it has timing. To know if your spaghetti is well cooked , you take one of it from the hot water  and throw it on the wall, if it sticks to the wall, it means it is cooked but if it falls down then it is not yet done.
On what inspires his cooking
I love being creative and this inspires me.  A chef has to be creative, you seat down to think if I  mix flour and egg together without yeast and if it comes out well, you as a chef gives it a name  and  that becomes  your speciality. If it does not come out well, you  jettison it.
On the food culture in Africa
I will tell you honestly that I will want the chefs to put more efforts into preparation of local food, because the  foreigners that come into our countries  want to experience our food, but some chefs don’t like touching African local food. This is very bad. We should promote  our local food.
On food that has impacted on him as a child
I love okra  and this has impacted on my cooking as a chef.
On the funniest thing to teach a chef
The first thing to teach a young chef is hygiene. A chef must be clean. A chef  must not grow beards, a chef must have short nails, a chef  must be clean. So the first thing to teach is hygiene. I will advise parents to ensure that they at least send a child to catering school to become a  chef. The profession is  a good one  and it pays, but you need to like it to do it.
On the gadgets he likes using most
Almost everything  in the kitchen from oven  to knives, blender to  cooker  are all important.
Experience working at Ibis Lagos and its food culture
I am happy  working with  a good team here  from the General Manager  who is the chief marketer  to  the last person here.
Once you are lucky to work with a wonderful team you will  always be busy and that is what we have been doing in the kitchen as our guests satisfactions is a testament to what we produce in the kitchen. People come from far and wide to eat here because of the quality and taste of food we serve them combined with the ambience of our hotel.
On weather he eats or cooks at home
(Laughter)  this is a good question.  I hate going to the kitchen at home.
I don’t do that because I spend almost all my time in the kitchen seeing food , vegetable. So, when I am at home I stay outside the kitchen.
Eating at home? Yes, I do. But my wife  is always disappointed because  she goes out of her ways to prepare the best food for me  only  for me to ask for  small smoked fish with pepper and garri soaked in water. This is because I would have  seen all she prepared already for that day. You imagine the disappointment the woman is facing as my wife.

Friday, April 19, 2013

DAARSAT promises dedicated travel channel

As Nigerians eagerly await the relaunch of DAAR Communications pay Television, DAARSAT, the management of the organisation has promised to dedicate one channel to  the broadcast of tourism and culture related programs.
This was made known during a visit to the tourism village in Abuja by the chairman of DAAR Communications Group,
High Chief Raymond Dokpesi , Chairman  DAAR Communications, made this known when he led his management team to the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) in Abuja recently.
Chief Dokpesi said  the cable outfit is the first of its kind in Africa to feature full African Cultural content in all channels stating that the purpose of the synergy with NTDC is to attract foreigners and acquaint them with the rich local content of Nigeria while bringing values and cultural essence to both satellite and digital terrestrial.
He decried a situation where we do not encourage the growth of our local industries by consistently patronizing foreign items pointing out that it portends grave danger for the productive sector and employment generation.
The Managing Director of DAARSAT, Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki said the unique selling point of DAARSAT is education, maintaining that the cable outfit’s comeback was historical
Dr. Obaseki attributed the success of DAARSAT, which is to broadcast on full high definition decoders, to the doggedness and enterprise of its proprietor, Chief Dokpesi whom he described as a fighter who had paid his dues in the industry.
Don Pedro implored NTDC to make the HD decoders available and encourage hotels, Travel Agencies, Tour Operators and other related hospitality outfits to patronize DAARSAT.
Otunba Runsewe, DG NTDC   described Chief Dokpesi as a broadcast guru who has made great contributions by emphasizing on educational and local  content.
He promised to fully align with the initiative in a mutually beneficial partnership while assuring the visitors that the decoders will be distributed to hotels.

Nigeria has tremendous potentials in tourism – X-adebija

Gbenga X-adebija has travelled widely in the course of working at Cadbury Schweppes, where he led many strategic initiatives in Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Resources, Organizational Culture, Marketing, and Corporate Communication among others. The alumnus of the University of Ilorin, University of London and the Lagos Business School  is  extremely cosmopolitan, with world-class perspectives and outlook.
He is currently the chairman of Simply Posh Ltd, a group of companies with interests in Corporate Gifts and Hospitality and also serves on the board of several companies in corporate Nigeria. In this interview with Jimoh Babatunde, he shared his travel experience. Excerpts:
First holiday memory
Going to the village for the Yuletide with my parents and siblings. It was such an awesome adventure and filled with so many pleasant memories of the long drives, stopping by the side of the road to eat and so on. It was also great to hang out in the village with friends and family. To a large extent, even though I have been to many countries all over the world, this still ranks among the best travel memories.
Favourite place in Nigeria
I have done more travelling outside Nigeria than inside Nigeria and that is something that needs to be corrected going into the future. I have no specific  favourite place but Tinapa comes to mind as well as the peace and serenity of villages on the outskirts of cities.
X-adebija in Ghana with Nollywood stars
X-adebija in Ghana with Nollywood stars
Best holiday
Visits to the USA and UK with the family, but perhaps my best ever holiday was our honeymoon to the UK and France back in 2000.
What he has  learnt from his  travels
I have learnt that Nigeria has tremendous potentials in tourism. It is also clear that Nigeria needs to significantly improve its infrastructure and its institutional branding to improve its attraction to tourists.
His ideal travelling companion
Yetunde, my wife, I have also travelled alone with my daughter and my sons, but I had the best times travelling with Yetunde alone.
Holiday reading
A holiday is certainly not the time for any serious reading so apart from the local newspapers, I  don’t read anything at all.
Beach bum, culture adventure
I have experienced some wonderful beaches in America, South Africa and Ghana. The feel of the sand under your feet, the breeze and the waves is a marvellous feeling.
Where has seduced him
Home is the best, so no matter how beautiful any country is, I still find that I miss home after just a few days.
Better to travel or to arrive
There is no place like home so arriving is the best experience, except of course I am travelling with the family.
Worst travel experience
Missing connecting flights is a nightmare. However, my worst experience was around 2002. I returned from USA via the UK to Nigeria in the morning and left for a seminar in South Africa that same day. The combination of long hours inside the plane and different time zones played havoc with my body clock and I spent most of the seminar struggling to stay awake!
Best hotel
No particular favourite, I have stayed in many posh hotels but I only enjoy them if Yetunde is with me.
Favourite drive
I took a drive with a friend from Orange County to Hollywood. It was a long and wonderful drive with wonderful scenery. We went as close  as possible to Neverland, the home of Michael Jackson, but we did not see him(laughter)
Best meal abroad
I was literally starving once while in Copenhagen because I could not eat the food . Finally, after extensive interrogation  of the hotel waiter, it turned out that they had beans. It was a life-saver!
His  favourite city
London. There is something about the place which just agrees with me.
Where next
Jamaica! I want to see the country which produced Peter Tosh, my favourite singer of all time and I want to see his mausoleum, visit his family and soak in the culture.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Largest private yacht in the world is launched

A new yacht launched Friday by Lürssen, the German luxury boatbuilder, is now the largest motor yacht in the world. It's name is Azzam, and at 590 feet long, it has officially bumped Roman Abramovich's yacht – the 536-foot Eclipse – from its number one ranking.
Lürssen won't comment on the ownership. But industry sources say the owner is likely the royal family of Abu Dhabi.
Lürssen will say that the boat was "without the a doubt the most challenging yacht that has ever been built." Aside from its sheer size, Azzam had to be super-fast and able to ply shallow waters "while providing luxurious and sophisticated accommodation to its guests."
For speed, the boat is powered by jets rather than propellers. It's got 94,000 horsepower under the hood. And it hit a top speed of 30 knots, which is about 30 percent faster than most mega-yachts. "It's like a 590-foot jet ski," said one executive involved in the project.
There are no immediate descriptions available of the interior, though we know it's in the hands of French interior designer Christophe Leoni, who's using a "turn of the century Empire style." Nor do we have critical details on the number of Jacuzzis, rotating beds or helicopter pads. But the main salon, at 95 feet long by 60 feet wide has no pillars dividing the space.

Taking lesson on falconry at the desert

A visit to Dubai is not complete for most people without a safari tour where a mysterious desert beckons tourists for a magical evening out. Jimoh Babatunde joined other tourists to experience how the sun descends into the horizon around the enchanting show of falconry…
With several visits to Dubai in the last few years attending the Arabian Travel Market, the opportunity for safari trip had not presented itself until recently when the Emirates Airline provided it as part of the tour packaged for a trip to watch Arsenal football club in London.
The journey from London Heathrow to Dubai would have been stressful having to travel immediately after watching Arsenal and Norwich match live at the Emirates stadium but for the opportunity to fly An Airbus A380.
Stepping into the Business class located at the upper deck of the aircraft at Heathrow, I was not prepared for the flying experience awaiting me.
The A380 offers a flying experience no other aircraft in the sky can match, and redefines the meaning of comfort for all passengers – whether they are premium customers in first and business class, or leisure travellers in the economy cabin.
The manufacturer of the Airbus has gone to great lengths to make long-haul flying aboard the A380 feel more natural for its passengers – with broader seats, more personal storage, better head room and wider stairs and aisles.
The Emirates’ A380 offers 14 flat-bed First Class Private Suites with electrically operated doors and 76 fully-flat mini-pods in Business Class – all with aisle access – on the upper deck. Downstairs, there are 427 comfortable contoured seats in Economy Class, spread across four separate cabins.
I soon slept after the delicious meal on board to enjoy the Business Class seats that convert into a flat bed at the touch of a button. Using the touchscreen controller, you can adjust your seat to suit your own preferences and comfort. Each seat extends to form a flat bed up to 79 inches long.
Arriving Dubai refreshed, we were checked into the hotel where we had some hours of sleep before the safari tour billed for 3pm. “Jimoh, Please you are the team leader now. Make sure you are at the lobby 15 minutes before the time. It will be worthwhile experience.” That was Liz Opalka of the Emirates Airline.
Tourists watching the falcon display at the desert (Inset) vehicles doing the dune bashing
Expectedly, the three of us (Jimoh, Tunji and Ajanaku) were at the lobby when the tour guide from Arabian Adventure arrived. “I am Yamen. I am here to pick you for the tour. Please lets go”, with this he ushered us into a Toyota four wheel car for the journey that took about 45 minutes.
As we left behind the crowds and chaos of the city, our tour guide, Yamen, took pleasure in telling us about political issues back in his native country of Syria and world politics. Just as he also informed us that the Arabian Adventure company is owned by the UAE government and sponsor by Emirates and that informed why it is the only tour company allowed to do drone drive, so as to guarantee safety of tourists.
Arriving at the gate of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep in the heart of the desert, the tyres of the Toyota Land Cruiser had to be deflated. There were other vehicles parked for the same purpose.
We alighted from the vehicle to the warm, breezy afternoon sun to watch the falcon show. Lots of tourists were seated under canopies erected in the open field about to participate in a falcon hunt or learn about the history of these magnificent birds, and even experience a little of what life was like for the Bedouin.
And when a  middle aged man  came  to the scene with a falcon bird with a bag stripped round his neck, he  immediately became the point of focus as he takes the tourists on the history of falcon which is the national emblem of United Arab Emirate.
He said falconry is an age old tradition for the people of this region, especially for the Bedouin. The falcons themselves are beautiful birds of prey with an impressive capacity to learn and to trust their handlers.
“Three things to know about a falcon if you want them to hunt. One, is the falcon needs to be hungry. They will never hunt if they are full. Second, it is insulting to the falcons if you offer them small prey, such as a mouse or rabbit. These birds can, and have, taken down animals as large as an oryx. Lastly, a falcon will never chase it’s prey if it is still and most animals know this, so they remain motionless hiding in the desert grass.”
It wasn’t long before the prey was brought fro the bag and the falcon soon began her hunt. Between the time the falcon was released and the prey was captured could not have been more than five minutes. The falconry show not only showcases the majestic bird of prey, but also the beauty of the desert making for multiple photo opportunities.
With the falcon show over, over 45 Toyata jeeps, each taking not less than three tourists, were on ground for the thrilling journey – over towering sand dunes, and through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep in the heart of the desert.
The Arabian roller coaster ride known as dune bashing (desert driving) was interesting as we shriek and laugh with excitement as the car goes up and down the dunes.
As the sun descends into the horizon, the vehicles stop to allow tourists to take sunset photographs, while standing on top of the fading desert dunes.  We then head to the campsite where a convoy of camels awaits our arrival for short camel rides. As the sun casts its glow over the soft sands, lanterns come to life in the distance, signaling a traditional welcome.
After returning from the camel ride, we moved into the camp relaxing on low cushions in traditional Bedouin tents to enjoy an Arabian BBQ (barbeque/barbecue) buffet dinner and dessert beside a blazing bonfire with traditional cups of coffee and dates, underneath the pitch-black night sky.
Before we head back to Dubai, we were entertained by the dancing of a belly dancer to traditional Arabic music in company of a friend from New Zealand we met on the trip.
Heading back to Dubai, we had  discussion on  the economic benefit of the tour to the Dubai government and its people taking into consideration that Nigeria has a huge potentials  in tourism that  are not being utilized . “Did you see the number of tourists  from different parts of the world there? Don’t  forget  that we were told that  over  forty five jeeps with at least three people were with us  this evening.
“There are three session per day. Imagine what they would have spent on accommodation and food  on this tour as more than 500 people  come here  every month from this company not to talk of others.” Tunji said.
Ajanaku quickly added that the issue of security is taken for granted here as  there is no policeman or soldier wielding guns going about  as is common back home. The absence of  gun carrying security officials doting all nooks and cranny does not mean that tourist are left unguarded.
There is no doubt that an internal security mechanism is put in place since government is aware of the huge economic interest inherent in a sustained thriving and security guaranteed tourism.

My clients determine my travel destinations – Trevor Ward

Trevor Ward , hotel management graduate of  the University of Surrey is a specialist consultant in the hospitality and leisure industries. From the late 1980s , when he started his consultancy career,  he has specialised in the provision of advisory services to clients in developing countries, and since 2003 has been based in Nigeria.
Trevor is the Managing Director  of the W Hospitality Group with offices in the UK, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Angola.  In addition, he is one of the Africa representatives for TourismROI, the world’s premier Travel & Tourism management and investment resource.
His international experience includes advising clients on hotel and tourism development in more than 80 countries in Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. In this interview,  with JIMOH BABATUNDE, he shares his traveling experience coming up with a verdict that Istanbul is the best place on earth. Here an excerpt .
Travelling interest
I have  been keen on travelling all my life – I loved going on family holidays to Malta each year when I was young – but I guess I would date the start of being a real “traveler” to 1983, when I first became a consultant.  I now travel virtually every week and I take at least 120 flights every year.
Choice of destinations
Largely, it is my clients who decide where I go, in order to carry out research and other studies for them!  I have been privileged to visit nearly 100 countries around the world, including over 30 in Africa .
Trevor Ward
On the destination he likes most
Istanbul is the best place on earth!
On why do he  likes  the destination
I first visited Istanbul in 1985, and instantly fell in love with it.  I now have a home there, which we visit as much as possible.  It is a fantastic city, full of life, with layer upon layer of history – so much history, it’s amazing!  The food is wonderful, the people are wonderful, we love being there!
On what he takes along on a trip
I travel with as little as possible, I hate checking in luggage – actually, it is the waiting to collect your luggage the other end that I hate.  Even more than that, I hate waiting for other people’s luggage!  So in my little carry-on bag, you’ll find just the essentials – change of clothes, toothbrush, that kind of thing.  Of, course all those cables and chargers you need for your laptop, i-phone, mobile among others.
On why he takes those items
We cannot live without our gadgets, can we?!
On what inform his choice of hotels.
In Istanbul , I don’t stay in hotels, as I have an apartment there.  Elsewhere, I insist on value for money.  If I am attending a conference, for example, I will find a low-cost , but clean hotel  with internet, because I spend so little time in the hotel.  Otherwise, a good mid-scale hotel normally does me just fine.
On his  best hotel and why
The Shooting Star Lodge in Zanzibar .  A small, beachfront lodge, simple but caring, truly relaxing in a fantastic environment.
On his  best airline to travel
I use so many airlines, it is difficult to choose just one, but I am really impressed with Asky, which has really opened up West and Central Africa .  They hub out of Lomé, and have made it so easy to get around the region.  They are managed by Ethiopian Airlines, with great service.  Most important, they nearly always run on time, which is incredible important to me.
On  where he will like to visit next
Not sure it will be “next”, but I would love to go to Madagascar , I hear it is a beautiful place, with some very special wildlife.
On  who he expects  to meet on a  trip.
No-one!  I like to spend time alone with my family when I am on vacation.
On the best person he ever  met on your trip.
Everyone is “best”, I meet so many wonderful people in my travels, and most important, I learn from them.

Osun sacred grove: Beyond the festival

By Jimoh Babatunde
Since 1370 AD, when the people of Osogbo began the celebration of the Osun goddess, the annual Osun Osogbo festival has come to be regarded as a major event in the country’s tourism calendar.
The highlight of the annual festival is the cultural procession to the groove led by votary maid, Arugba, carrying the symbolic calabash.
To many, the  Osun groove  begins and ends with the Osun river where the calabash carried by the Arugba is emptied, but  a visit to the grove  which is today listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage  Sites  is beyond  the festival.
From one of the two  roads  and several  footpaths leading  into the sacred  grove , the   sounds of  birds, animals like  monkeys could be heard  amidst the breeze pushing the trees  on that  sunny afternoon.
Oja Ontoto shrine.
‘You are welcome to Osun grove’ said the tour guide, Ayo, who met this reporter at the beginning of a tarred road that form part of the pilgrimage route into the grove.   Along the roads are sacred stone, metal objects, mud and wooden sculptures used in defining and impersonating the various deities inside the grove.
“The grove has a mature, reasonably undisturbed, forest canopy, which supports a rich and diverse flora and fauna – including the endangered white-throated monkey. Some parts were cleared in the colonial period, and teak plantations and agriculture introduced, but these are now being re-established.
“The grove is a highly sacred sanctuary where shrines, sculptures and artworks honour Osun and other Yoruba deities. It has five main sacred divisions associated with different gods and cults.”
As we approached the metal gate that stretches into the Osun courtyard where the temple, the Osun shrine and the river side altar are located, the tour guide pointed to a decrepit building, “this is the first palace.”
The first palace, according to him, is where the first Ataoja (Oba) of Osogbo, Larooye and his people first settled. It is located in the Osun courtyard and it houses the Osun shrine and the temple. The temple contains the sacred stone stool, the rock of authority of the Oba used some 500 years ago.
About 600 meters away from the first palace was the second palace which was said to have been built by Larooye to avoid the effect of constant flooding experienced at the first palace. “Today, the ogboni  cult  house stands within a symbolic reconstruction of the second palace. The ogboni cult is an elitist society of men of influence and affluence.”
Both buildings are constructed of mud walls with tin roofs supported variously by mud and carved wooden pillars. The three Ogboni buildings are constructed with sweeping roofs rising high over the entrances and supported on a cluster of slender carved wooden posts.
The first palace of the king of Osogbo within the grove
He  pointed to the carved  wooden posts , “  these are the work of the Sacred Art Movement.” Ayo added  late Susan Wenger  and her traditional associates of the sacred Art movement  did a lot here in the grove to  erect sculptures in place of old ones that  were destroyed , and giant immovable ones as protection of threatened spaces in the grove.
“Individual sculptures, ensembles, decorated walls and sculptural monuments have been erected at more than forty different points in the grove.”
As we moved behind the palaces upward in the grove, we came across a rustic  suspended bridge built over the Osun River. “This bridge was built around 1935  by the colonial masters , probably  to link Osogbo with other Yoruba towns   or to carry  supplies  and men  during the  world war 11.”
From the  bridge, I  took a  panoramic view of the surrounding grove as well as the Osun river,  with a  memories of the  push that take place there during the annual Osun festival  with people struggling to  fetch from the river after the votary maid would have emptied here calabash. Those people believe the water has curative power.
For tourists who are ardent of  the god of  Sango, the grove provides an avenue to  learn about the god as there is a place dedicated to Oya, one of the three wives of Sango, the god of thunder and lightening.
Ayo, explained that  the grove  has five main  sacred divisions which are associated  with different  deities and cults. The Oya bush  is one of them and it was said to be  the spot that the great hunter of Osogbo, Timehin first  encountered the god of herbal medicine, called Osayin.
Oja ontoto  market  according to the tour guide is a mythological  market where  human  and spirit beings are said to  have interacted. It is  the first  market in Osogbo.  A traditional shrine  is located at the market. Evidence of grinding  activities is represented  by oval pits out of the pre-cambrian outcrops of stone slabs that cover the market space.
As we moved  out of the  interior of the grove, my mind races  through the history contained in the grove  and the work of those who thought it wise  to preserve  them for  generations to come.

I can’t travel without my cap, walking stick – Amachree

CHIEF Mike Amachree, a foremost tourism practitioner and elder statesman, became a professional in tourism in 1973 when he established Buguma Club in his hometown. The social club later moved to Port Harcourt where he ventured into hospitality business since 1976 till today.
He was the first operator of the old Port Harcourt Tourist Beach in Rivers State and founding father of the Tourism Associations in Nigeria
In this chat on his travel experience with JIMOH BABATUNDE, the holder of many chieftaincy titles and initiator of many tourism projects across the country disclosed that he can not travel out of Nigeria without his traditional paraphernalia. Here is an excerpt:
ON his traveling
I travel a lot as a travel practitioner to different part of the world and in the country, but of recent, I have not been traveling because as a kalabiri chief I have a lot to do in the village. But, between Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, I do a lot of travelling because my businesses span these three cities.  I have hotels in these cities.
On the cities he likes visiting
I mostly travel to San Francisco because my sister lives there, apart from that it is a hilly city, decent and it used to be the financial headquarters of America. I do go there to learn about managing tourism business as a tourist city too.
There is a place they call fisher man’s wharf. That place used to attract me, in that place if you start from the centre; you can go with cable car.
Chief Mike Amachree

Mode of daily transportation
Cable cars are a traditional mode of daily transportation for San Franciscans, and an eagerly sought adventure for every visitor. Since 1964, the cable car has been designated by the National Park Service as a “national landmark”. I do enjoy the cable car from one point to another. When you reach the water side, there are boats that take you to the place where Americans used to keep prisoners, called Alcatraz island.
In Nigeria, I used to like travelling to Jos, but in recent time, the crisis there has turned away many tourists like me. The weather in Jos is just like that of sans Francisco as well as being a hilly city. Nature has richly endowed Plateau State with scenic beauty. Mostly rocky and treeless, the state contains chains of hills and many interesting rock formations. The landscape ranges from bare rocks to man-made.
On things he takes along on travelling
Whatever I use as a kalabari chief is a must for me when I am travelling, I must go with my cap, my walking stick. There was a day I travelled to one of these American cities with my walking stick in a bus and the bus driver shouted that they should stand up for a disable person. So, a young lady stood up for me, I told her that I am not disable, but a chief in my country. So, my walking stick and cap are two items, I will not travel without.
On his choice of hotel
For me, cleanliness is the hallmark; I am not swayed by the star or name, but any place that is clean both within and outside. The toilets must be clean and the hotel close to the locals of that destination I am visiting as well as accessibility to transportation.
On his best hotel
In Cancun in Mexico, there was this hotel, I stayed that I liked very well
On the choice of airline
I will vote for the German carrier any day any time.  The reason is that no country hates the Germans and their aircrafts are well maintained
On where he wants to visit again
Bahamas and where they buried king Jaja in Caribbean. Orlando Florida
On personalities he has met on board and wants to meet again
Raymond Dokpesi. He is someone I have travelled with and will wan to do so again.
On how to promote domestic travel
In water, we should have bigger boat with life jackets and minimized passengers. On the road, the roads have to be maintained while we need good and new aircrafts to fly the airspace.

Olumo Rock: Egbas’ shelter, fortress

By Jimoh Babatunde
Imagine blasting a rock and instead of the normal powder eruption, what you have is pus and blood gushing out.  That is one of the mysteries associated with the Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Olumo Rock is a massive outcrop of granite rocks of primitive formation from which Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, derived its name. The highest point on the Olumo rock is about 137 meters from the base of the rock.
Another mystery surrounding the rock is the existence of a tree of over 200 years old which still grows there. “This tree neither withers nor sheds its leaves throughout the year. It flourishes throughout the seasons, whether dry or rainy season,” it was reported.
Olumo rock is an historical monument, which served as a shelter and fortress to the Egba people during the Yoruba Intercity wars. By 1830, the main body of the Egbas had already settled at the site of the Olumo and the refuge provided by the rock marked the end of their wanderings and struggles for existence.
Since then, they regard the Olumo Rock as their protection shrine and they make annual sacrifices to its deity. People from all walks of life still go there for divine consultations.
During a tour of various sections of the rock recently, the tour guide disclosed that the Alake of Egbaland, being the paramount ruler of the Egba, offers sacrifices in the shrine on behalf of the people and prays for the whole country and the entire Egba people, as well as for the tourists that visit the rock.
To the Egbas, Olumo Rock stands not only as a monument of faith in unity but also a source of strength and unfailing protection and sustenance from the Supreme Being who led their ancestors through the perplexities of life safely to Abeokuta.
Front view of the Olumo Rock tourist complex
Olumo Rock, today, is a world class tourist destination that stands as the only one of its kind in Africa and presumably the world. The centre consists of a fast food joint, museum, and a giant telescope to view Abeokuta, a fountain of atonement, a recreational park, and an amphitheatre among others.
From the gate with the inscription ‘Olumo Rock Tourist Complex,’  tourists will not lose sight of the heavy duty escalator and a glass elevator running the different levels of the rock alongside the old stairway for visitors who love climbing.
Climbing the rock could be extremely challenging, most especially for the aged, the installation  of this facility has greatly helped  to attract  more visitors to Olumo Rock, but the fun still lies in using the old stairway.
As we make our way to the top of the rock, it leaves many breathless and ready to take a break to rest on the benches under the trees growing from the rock and enjoy some clean breeze. The journey continues with climbs on irregularly sized rocks through a narrow corridor that leads to the top of the rock.
All along the way, we catch sights of carvings in the rock, cowry-studded statues and the ancient abode of the priestesses who lived in huts on the rock. It was amazing to note that the rock is naturally surrounded by caves, one of which is about 20 feet long and 25 feet wide.
These caves have slab-like stones, which appear to have served as seats used by the ancient dwellers. It probably was used as a hall by the dwellers.
Another cave, some 20 meters long and 17 meters wide, seemed to be a dwelling place. It has five in-built rooms with a long corridor, a sitting room, kitchen and a store.
At the east end is another big cave, built with mud walls into outer and inner chambers. This is used as a shrine by the devotees of Orisa-Igun, God of longevity. Orisa Igun is celebrated annually during which goats, rams and other animals are sacrificed. The ceremonies last for 30 days.
There were also points with holes on the floor where the Egba warriors were said to have hidden their wives and children during inter tribal wars. There are holes dug on the floor which were said to have provided a devise for grinding pepper.
At the summit of the rock, tourists have the opportunity of having a panoramic view of the city from atop the rock.
The old St. Peters Cathedral, the Ogun River, the city’s beautiful central mosque, the Alake’s palace and many others, can be sighted from the top of the rock.
Descending was not as difficult as climbing. At the base of the rock; some tourists took time out to visit the museum of history while some took time out to relax at the eatery.
It was learnt that efforts are being made to initiate and execute visual art projects, which when completed, would portray the historical and cultural significance of Olumo Rock as the ancestral home of the Egbas and also make the complex aesthetically pleasing.
“Sculptures as well as mural designs which will tell stories of past and present events, would be placed around the rock while some spaces have also been mapped out to be used as gardens, just as locally made tents are in the pipeline for those desiring to hold parties in a natural environment within the complex,” it was gathered .

Obudu cattle ranch has the best landscape – Dantata

Before  his appointment  as the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Dr. Munzali Dantata, has been a major player in the tourism industry in Nigeria.
He once headed  the powerful National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents (NANTA) and later  the President of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) from where he was appointed  to head NIHOTOUR. As a  a consummate specialist in the hospitality business, he shares his traveling experience with JIMOH BABATUNDE. Here is an excerpt:
On his journey into the hospitality business
I am a lawyer by training but the transition was possible, because I am an artist at heart. I draw, paint and write poetry. As a child and teenager, I was the first in the arts in my class and  though I had some love for architecture, my going into law does not change anything.
As a lawyer, I had started off practising with the judiciary in Kano state. I resigned from that appointment to form my own chambers and sometime in the mid-80s, I set up a travel agency, All States Travel and Tours, which is still in business today. That agency became my window into the hospitality industry.
As you may be aware, there is a connection between tourism and arts and culture. In many countries of the world they both go together. Even here in Nigeria, the government is pushing arts and culture as one of our many products. That is why the federal government merged both arms to form the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.
Obudu cattle ranch
On how long he has been traveling
I have been traveling for over forty years.
On what inspires  his choice of destinations
I like going to new places. I am a curious person by nature. In 1996 I visited Onyeama coal mines, about 2 hours by car from Enugu. The friend that took me felt ashamed that though he was born and bred in Enugu  he had never visited the mines until I took him there.
From 2000 to 2002, I visited all the eight national parks with my wife. The Conservator General was impressed. Just two weeks ago I visited the oil fields in the outskirts of Eket in Akwa Ibom State, because I had never seen a live oil rig. A senator from that zone arranged my trip.
On his best  destination or city
London, United Kingdom. It has a balance of interesting places for everybody. I enjoyed it as a child. Decades later, I returned as a father with my children.
On his best destination  in Nigeria
My best Nigerian destination is Obudu Cattle Ranch. It has the best landscape in the world. The Obudu Ranch/Resort has a temperature of between 26°C to 32°C between November and January,the nights are cool to cold during this period.
The lowest temperature range of 4°C to 10°C is recorded between June and September which is the rainy season.
Warm clothes,raincoat and water boots for hiking in rainy season. The Obudu plateau has an altitude of 1,575.76metres above sea level hence its tranquil climate.  Now you know why I read law but ended up becoming a tour operator. It is about job satisfaction. I enjoy traveling and am tourist myself.
Dr. Munzali Dantata
On what he takes along on his trips
These days I always carry my laptop whenever  I  travel. To go online, work and entertain myself on the move.
On what inform his  choice of hotels
Clean room with international TV stations.
On his best hotel and why
Hilton Hotel. Because they are in many cities and you can earn points which can reduce your bill.
On his best airline
British Airways. It has good connections, comfortable seats and good inflight service.
On where  he will  like to visit next
Australia. Because I have never been down under. Australia is one part of the world that I have never visited. Though grouped in Asia, it is not typical Asia, nor is it part of the West.
On who  he will  like to meet on his trip
Local people. I like going to new places, meeting new and local people. I am always increasing my education.
On the best person he has  met on his  trip
A Zulu chief I met at Shakaland, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. The Zulu chief was the chief of Shakaland. Its a cultural tourism village. Dressed in full Zulu regalia the chief receives visitors all day. It was in 1999

Culinary is lifestyle, not just profession – Preidelt

Thomas Preidelt, an Austrian ,  came to Transcorp Hilton Hotel , Abuja as Executive Chef  recently with wealth of experience spanning over ten years as Sous Chef with Langham Hilton Hotel, London. He also worked as Executive Chef in Munich City and Poland.
In this chat with Vanguard’s JIMOH BABATUNDE, he  traces his journey  into being a chef to his family background and also shares his goal of working with the Transcorp Hilton’s team to creating more exciting culinary experiences for their guests. Here is an excerpt.
Did you cook growing up?
Yes as one of the routine house chores especially when mum was not there to cook for you.
What made you decide to become a Professional Chef?
This goes back to my family, my grandfather was a chef and my father was also a pastry and bakery chef. So my passion goes fare back!
Where did you  train and what  was it like?
I had my training in the mid-80s (86-89), that was a quiet hard time. I was working an average of 14 hours a day, one day off, one –two week vacation per Year.  It was very hard and demanding. Chefs at this time were very tough and shouting was a standard.
I would just compare it with “hell’s kitchen/ Gordon Ramsay” .Just watch that show on TV and you will know exactly how it was in earlier days! But still thinking back, I don’t regret anything or any minute of my training.
Thomas Preidelt
How difficult did training?
It was difficult, but without that training I would not be where I am now. So it was worth all the time and effort.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely yes.  Anytime, I will do it again
What’s your best cooking tip for a  novice?
Start to follow recipes – increase your product knowledge – try to recognize different herbs & spices in different dishes – focus on the products taste – don’t over season.
What advice would you offer a young person interested in getting into the culinary industry?
Culinary industry is a LIFESTYLE and not just a profession; you should dedicate your live around the profession.  If you are committed, the world of opportunities will open for you.
Your  favorite gadget?
“Apple” products.
What is your funniest kitchen incident?
A non novice waiter filled sand in pepper shakers instead of white pepper.
Favorite food you like to cook?
Veal schnitzel “Vienna” style Most memorable cooking moment Cooking a dinner for Bill Gates at the Zuma Grill of the Transcorp Hilton Abuja.
From your experience how important is the food culture to Nigerians today?
Food is very important for all Nigerians; they are very particular when it comes to even simple dishes. And lately I see an increased number of Nigerians going for international cuisine.
Do you think the younger generation is in tune with the traditional culinary recipes passed on by the older generations?
My experience from working with Nigerian chefs for the past one year tells me that recipes from older generations are passed on very well.
What do you eat at home?
“Everything and anything my wife cooks.

Langham Hotel: ’140 years old, yet modern’

THE Langham Hotel, London has remained focus to the ideal behind its construction as an elegant, glamorous and grand hotel in 1865. It has also not lost the legendary afternoon tea served at the dazzling Palm Court that has remained its signature for over 140 years.
Sitting in midst of  some visiting journalists  at the  dazzling Palm Court , the centre piece of the property  recently, Brian Gore, Director of Communication of the hotel, was at his best as he tells  why the hotel has remained the number one in terms of services and history. Here is an excerpt.
ON using the history of the hotel to market the product:
The hotel has a long history. When it was built in 1865, at that time it was really the first   grand hotel to be built, it was a purpose built hotel. At a time it was the largest building in London, there were other hotels at the time but were smaller, there were guest houses.
So when it was built, it was the first hotel to have lift, it was the first hotel to have bath rooms with the bedrooms; it was the first hotel to have telephones in all the rooms. It was always in the first in the use of other technology.
We use the history to tell the story of the hotel and the afternoon tea as a prime example, because when we opened in 1865, we served afternoon tea on the menu and it cost seven pence at the time, but the afternoon tea was invented here at the hotel.
It was actually started by Duchess of Bedford in 1840s, she was a lady of dignity, she was a member of the high society, she used to get tired in the afternoon and will ask her staff to bring her some of the left over from lunch to eat in her room where she is in the afternoon, and then she will invite her friends to come and join her where they will have tea and pastries and so on. That was where it started.
So, when we opened in 1865 there was no else like this in London, there was no other dinning experience like this in London, we had one of the biggest dinning rooms in London and we were serving afternoon tea. We want to say that the real traditional afternoon tea you have today in London actually began here, this palm court in this building.
When we tie history to the hotel, the hotel was built in the Victoria period in London, beautiful Victoria façade in the front of the hotel, which is not normally the case with hotels in London. Some of the hotels are newly built; they dont look as stunning as this hotel is.
The Langham hotel
Also the location means that we are right in the heart of London, so when the hotel was built, London was kind of growing round the hotel and we are still much at the centre, so we have shopping on our doorsteps, we have parks at our doorsteps, if you want to go the theaters in the evenings, they are at our doorsteps.
So, we are really  in the centre and that comes from our history, you can’t  build a big hotel like this in a location like this any more , it is  never going to  happen again. So we have that advantage to us.
On tourist attractions close to the hotel:
The museums, British museum is very close by, some of the parks, regent park is close by here , we have the theaters, the shopping streets of London, we have Regent street, Bond street, oxford street, that is the main shopping area for shopping in London is right here in our door steps.
We have places like the  Buckingham palace which is ten minutes walk from here; the London Eye is very close; the tower bridge is close. So, we are really in the heart of London, everything is close by.
On the traditional afternoon tea:
Afternoon tea  is such a tradition , the experience here is very involved, so  it is a lovely relax atmosphere when you come in and from the room you can see that it is very calm and you can take your time , take two hours and just relax. People come here for celebrations like birthday, weddings and come here to have fun. I think the experience here is probably one of the best in London.
The experience you get here is different from any other hotel.  Peaceful lounge, it is luxurious and you can take your time to enjoy live music.
On the restaurant:
The Landau restaurant opened last year, we have father and son Albert and Michel Roux Jr as the chef, and they have incredible history in London. They are very famous, the junior is a TV personality, he has a lot of TV shows, he is very well known in this country. His father opened the first restaurant and handed down to the son, he went into semi retirement, but came back after twenty years to work with the son here.
It has  been a great success,  I think they  wanted  to come here because of the prestige of the hotel, the location, we have a beautiful dinning room, amazing kitchen set up  which is a great asset to have.
We have two main restaurants, the Landau and the Palm Court as well. We served afternoon tea at  Palm Court and also served break fast here as well as meal. The third option is our bar, which also serve bar food as well.
On the rooms
We have 380 rooms.  One of the unique thing about our rooms are that they are just refurbished, but because we have large number of rooms, we can do lot of different things, so we may take a large group of people coming into London, we have product like inter connecting rooms which are popular with families.
Traditional features
The concept behind the rooms’ interior is that we are traditional hotel and we have a great history and the same time try to bring in the contemporary touch to that, to make them modern.  You notice that when you get to the rooms, there are still traditional features,  as you will expect in hotel bedrooms, but  the unique twist to the furniture , the colours used are quite contemporaries .
On leisure:
We are so close to many of the tourist attractions in London, many people come to London for  shopping , we are perfectly placed for that as we are right in the centre , but we also have a new spa , we have a gym, we have swimming pool, one of the largest in London . The swimming pool is located in the first bank vault here.
On how to maintain the hotel’s history:
It is staying true to the original idea behind the hotel when it was built; you can’t convert the hotel into contemporary hotel or designer hotel, because it will not work.  One of our assets is this beautiful building we are in and as I said you will never be able to build this again.

Colour, glamour at Abuja carnival

By Jimoh Babatunde
The Vice President, Namadi Sambo, captured the essence of the annual Abuja Carnival that ended Tuesday night at the Eagle Square in the Federal Capital, when he said “The laudable dreams that gave birth to the carnival have continued to motivate its annual celebration, anchored on the recognition that there exists a nexus between culture and the economic and technological growth of a nation.
This indeed could be the dreams of then President Olusegun Obasanjo and his team when the carnival was initiated in 2005 as an annual event aimed at showcasing the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Nigeria and for promoting the country as a safe, warm and hospital tourism destination.
From last weekend to Tuesday, the resident of Abuja and few tourists who could muster the courage to visit the country for the carnival at short notice despite the security challenges facing the country were treated to the best of the country’s culture.
Twenty two states of the federation including some invited countries like China; Namibia; Trinidad and Tobago; Egypt took parts in activities that range from street carnival, durbar, children fiesta, cultural night, traditional food fair and bush bar, boat regatta, command performance and contemporary music fiesta.
Some streets of Abuja covered by the 18 kilometres route of the carnival were transformed Saturday and Tuesday, the opening and closing ceremonies of the carnival as participating states paraded in colourful costumes.
Rivers and Oyo states  that won the award for the best costumes and carnival floats were cynosure of all as they displayed extreme creativity in costumes, floats and dances complemented  by contemporary music.
Some of the participants at the carnival
Tourists and Nigerians alike had the opportunities of savouring the country’s rich cultural heritage at close range as well as some foreign troupes.
Though, the boat regatta event is currently losing its steam, as evident from the number of participating states which were just four, Niger; Akwa Ibom; Bayelsa and Rivers, which did not stop the crowd from enjoying the best of artistic performance and ingenuity of costumes on water.
Boat regattas are indispensable part of the annual traditional festivals in the rivirian communities which involves the use of mounted decorated canoes and paddlers, with participation opened to both sex.
It was not surprising that Rivers state came top in the boat regatta in terms of performance and costumes adopted in their presentation.
The masquerade event of the carnival has always been the centre of attractions for many participants and tourists alike as the Abuja carnival parades array of beautifully adorned masquerades with different dance steps.
This year’s edition was not an exception as the participating states paraded masquerades to the admiration of the audience.
Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, and Rivers states delight to watch, of particular interest was the Ajikwu groups of masquerades from Anambra state. They sang, beat their drums and danced to folk music. They were indeed energetic and agile in their movement.
It was a night of glamour and glitz at the banquet hall in Aso villa as the carnival was taken to the presidency.
The Vice president, Namadi Sambo leading and visiting delegates like the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr Denzil Douglas, were treated to the best of performances  by the national troupes from participating countries alongside selected Nigerian troupes.
The court sound specialist from Laventille, Trinidad and Tobago with their steel band stole the night show with rendition of popular Nigerian music, not to be forgotten too were the performances of the Imo and Kano states troupes.

Carnival Rivers: Celebration of the tribes

This year’s Rivers State carnival, CARNIRIV, which ended last weekend in Port  Harcourt metropolis was many things- music, colour, movement, but above all, it was the spectacle of the tribes.
The main attraction was the “Ekere: Rhythm of the Tribes”, a display of the rich cultural heritage and glamour of the Rivers people in the 23 Local Government Areas. Each Local Government Area put up  show of glamorous costumes and captivating dance steps.
The floats of the 23 LGAs and that of indigenes of Akwa Ibom State resident in Rivers State  encapsulated the spice and  essence of the pure Rivers Carnival spirit. They showcased the diversity of the people’s  primal artistic fervor, and the glamour of  their  patrician heritage.
Former Miss Nigeria, Agbani Darego (left); Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State (second left); Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru (second right) and deputy gov’s wife, Mina, during the Garden City freestyle parade, in Port Harcourt.
Former Miss Nigeria, Agbani Darego (left); Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State (second left); Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru (second right) and deputy gov’s wife, Mina, during the Garden City freestyle parade, in Port Harcourt.
The stories behind the traditional Carnival characters lend meaning and significance to those  unusual portrayals of costumes and display with  individual playing specific persona  they have played in past editions  becoming  familiar with the traditions associated with those  roles.
With thousands of costumed revellers transforming  the landscape into a visual fantasia, the Director-General of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA), Dr. Sam Dede, who was part of the parade, said  “The main difference between CARNIRIV and other carnivals in the country is that CARNIRIV is mostly a display of the indigenous culture of the Rivers People. The costumes, dance and music on display are indigenous.”
The Carniriv that  is gradually evolving into  a truly all-inclusive national festival drew participants from neighbouring states as well  many expatriates from different parts of the world in attendance, even the governor of the state,  Rotimi Amaechi, was in attendance with former Miss World , Agbani Darego.
Ekere (rhythm of Tribes) performance
Ekere (rhythm of Tribes) performance
Governor Amaechi was  full of praises for the  bands presidents, band leaders, international and local designers and dancers, and all others for being part of the carnival, noting that the carnival  “ has told  the story of our past, sing the songs of our present and light the path to our future.
He added that the carnival offered the people the opportunity to their uniqueness and rich cultural heritage.” over the last  six days we  let our feet and our hearts do the talking. Yes , we danced. We  celebrated our uniqueness and our heritage. Port Harcourt was one big theater”.
For the State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Nabbs Imegwu, the carnival has become one of the most sought after cultural fiesta by tourists, adding that  this year edition was  repackaged with lots of varieties ranging from cultural display, Music Concert, featuring international artists, fashion parade and best designers in arts and crafts.
The one week cultural fiesta  featured a variety of indigenous and international displays. The Black African Music Festival (BAMFest) featured Grammy Award-winning reggae star and rapper, Shaggy and fellow reggae singer, Patra, celebrated Nigerian music acts, Tuface Idibia and Duncan Mighty. The artistes thrilled the crowd with a memorable performance.

Cooking is an art – Chef Ojo

He took interest in cooking while staying with one of his brothers where he did all the cooking. He later went for training in Catering and today, Taiwo Ojo, is the Senior Chef at the Lagos Airport Hotel. In this interview with JIMOH BABATUNDE, he shares his experience as a chef among other issues. Excerpt:
On how he became a chef
When I left high school, I stayed with one of my brothers who was a bachelor then, there I did all the cooking. That was where I developed interest in cooking.
After then I went to a training centre in Ogun state where I studied Catering for three years, after which I wrote the City and Guild of London examination for advance certificate in catering. All this was between 1978 and 1980. You see there were some leading lights in the sector that we were looking up to then as students. One of such people was the late Elder Alamotu.
Taiwo Ojo, Senior Chef, Lagos Airport Hotel.
Taiwo Ojo, Senior Chef, Lagos Airport Hotel.
When I went for professional attachment in their hotel, Alamotu was involved in the kitchen cooking. I was surprise that a chief could be cooking.  He had a Volvo car then too. It was Alamotu that motivated me by telling me that catering was a nice profession.
Alamotu was a good cook in both continental and local dishes; there were also some expatriates who were cooks then too. After my training , I joined Ogun state hotels where I was for over 12 years , there I worked with expatriate chefs and from there I was sent to Amsterdam  for three months  training .
On his thoughts on cooking
As a cook you are introduced to the food industry, you see cooking is an art.  People see cooking as a domestic thing, to me it is more than that, it is a tradition. You need to know about the food preparation, the storage, and the purchasing.
In cooking you take a lot into consideration, because as a chef if you are given ingredients that are not good, you can’t have good food, so your cooking starts from purchasing, and then storage facility as there are some degrees you store your food.
In cooking there are things you take into consideration , for you to prepare  your vegetable , you need to blanch it, and  when you have to cook your meat, you need to marinade it  which means that that the seasoning like onion, garlic  and others will enter into the meat to make it tasty.
You see, the recipes are very important in the kitchen, you must know the recipe of what you are cooking.  Take for instance your eba, you need water, garri. You need to know the amount of garri and water you need to serve five people. So you must have your weighing scale
On advice for young chefs
They must have interest in what they are doing.  Cooking I always maintained is a profession and they must take it serious.  The profession is not a lazy man’s job. It is a strenuous job. They must be prepared to put in hard work and long hours.  We cannot expect them to be a chef; we have to teach them to become a chef. It’s important to understand that once one graduates from a culinary school, their education is just beginning.
On the funniest experience
The funniest thing about the kitchen is that you cannot please everyone. Some people will appreciate your cooking while others will say what type of food he has cooked?
On his favourite food
I love preparing continental food. I love preparing rice in any form
On the Airport hotel’s food
The food here is one of best in the country. As a chef, I go to other hotels and see what they prepare compared to what we have here. Ours is tastier, well seasoned.  Our guests do commend us.
On the country’s food culture
It is the same problem we are facing in respect to languages that we are facing with food whereby people don’t want to teach their children their local languages, so also with the food. Each tribe has a local dish, but the question is how many people teach their children the art of their local dishes.

Nigeria is corporate destination, Gambia leisure destination – Wozniak

General Manager, Sheraton Hotel and Spa, the Gambia, Marc Wozniak, is an experience hotelier who has spent over three decades in the hospitality industry. Before berthing in the Gambia in 2011, he has worked in Europe, US, UK, Asia, Africa with renowned  brands like  Starwood, Intercontinental, Regeant, Accor, LHW, Boutique and Independent Hotels.
In this interview, Marc Wozniak shares his experience in the industry saying that  the Nigerian and Gambian markets are different ‘The Gambia is purely leisure destination and Nigeria purely a Corporate destination.’ Here is an excerpt
On how he entered  the hotel industry and training
I came into the industry through a trainee program 27 years ago at the Sheraton Essen Hotel, Germany following Management School in Germany.
Since then I have had series of  Professional trainings and the various international postings covering multicultural assignment have helped . Equally, constantly self-development, which I see more than mandatory for every hotelier is crucial for today’s success.
On how long he has worked for Sheraton Gambia
I have been here since October 2011
Marc Wozniak
Marc Wozniak
On weather he has  much say in the direction of the hotel
Yes,  operating a successful hotel demands  team effort,  whereby every individual opinion counts, so, leadership through continuous  coaching  culture is a goal here .
On the challenges faced at the Sheraton Gambia Hotel
A very big one, as I do consider The Gambia as a true hardship destination and without clearly seeing the big picture or the light in the tunnel, any creativity or innovation will be gone with the wind .
On the  occupancy rate in the hotel and the services offer
We are currently very busy, as it is our high season, running over 90% daily and of course being a 5 Star hotel our full attention concentrates on guest satisfaction, starting with the arrival experience and here a hot wet towel is a must, through guest rooms and the professional explanation of the in-room facilities and amenities, towards the culinary expectations, which in our case are surprisingly presented via our live cooking stations.
The leisure and SPA facilities should be mentioned here as well, due to the fact that all of us do have a busy life schedule, therefore do require a chill out time, the “peace” for our souls and minds.
On any highlights working in the hotel
The first Gambian Fashion Night Show was truly a highlight, including fashion designers and models from Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, France, Germany and Poland.
On comparison between working in the hospitality industry in Nigeria and the Gambia
It cannot be compared, as both of them do have different challenges and different markets. The Gambia is purely leisure destination and Nigeria purely a Corporate destination.
On reasons for Nigerians to  visit Gambia and stay in Sheraton Gambia
The Gambia is an uncomplicated and very affordable destination close to home. The very secure and lovely beach location of the Sheraton Gambia, it’s very unique.
The award winning   architecture of the Sheraton Gambia  is definitely nothing for “Party People”, but there is no better or more attractive location for relaxation and comfort / cozy time for families or friends than the Gambia.
On connection with the hotel guests
Here first of all,  I must mention my superb team which is assisting where they can, being available for our guests at any time.
As for me I must say 60 to  40 or even sometimes 70 to  30, that would be the correct split in regards to guest connectivity and the administration requirement are not getting less. The best part is that we are a Resort, and the Cocktail and Dinner time is shared with guests, providing always the necessary time for a Smalltalk.
On where he will be if not in the hotel in the Gambia
There are few nice places, allowing me to relax and to re-charge and those of course remain secret.

Onikan museum: Place where history comes alive

It is often said that a race that forgets its past will sooner die, and that a glimpse of our past   gives an insight into what we are today and even potential future. A visit to the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos recently brings to life all of the leaders that have one way or the other shaped the history of Nigeria.
The windshield and the body of the black Mercedes Benz were pierced with several bullets.  The  front windshield  has two big holes  from the gun shots  just as the body carried the scare of  almost  ten holes  on both sides.
From the bullets holes , one can confidently bet that the occupants could not have survived and truely  they were  not lucky. The death of one of the occupants has remained with the country since that faithful Friday, February 13, 1976.
Former Nigeria Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, was on that day shot dead  at Obalende on his way back from the Mosque ,where he had gone to perform his Jummat prayer ,by some soldiers led by   Lieutenant Colonel Suka Dimka  in an abortive military coup against the government.
Today, that  black Mercedes Benz is at the National Museum, Onikan with the red leather upholstery, dashboard and steering wheel among others still looking elegant  with the Nigerian flag and that  of the Nigerian Army flying in front dotting the front of the sedan benz.
Late Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s  Benz
Late Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s Benz
Seeing the Mercedes car  my mind raced back to my childhood in  Benin. I remembered as a child having to see my parents peep through our windows with light off looking at the army that took over the street of Benin City after the coup was crushed by forces loyal to the government.
Turning my eyes away from the car, I stood  face to face with the picture of the coup leader, Lieutenant Colonel Dimka, sandwiched between officers that arrested him .The look on his face did not show that of a remorseful officer.
In the same hall were the pictures of former Nigerian leaders from  Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa to the  the current President, Good luck Jonathan.
The National Museum really provides a unique interactive experience of getting up close to things we usually only see in books, newspapers or on the television.
Seeing the late Head of State’s car for example, is a totally different experience to seeing one of the several   printed versions; the perception you get of something from a second-hand source is often completely different to the one you get when you see something with your own eyes.
As I made  my way out of the exhibition hall in company of the museum guide, Omidire Olabisi, I pondered over the men of yester years who are still in government today. Still in that  mood, the guide drew my attention to the colourful ladies in the pictures that looked like bill boards in  the main court yard of the museum.
“These were pictures taken at an exhibition of lace materials in Lagos organised by the Austrian embassy here. You know Nigerian women travel there to buy lace materials.”
Along side the pictures of the ladies with different colours of the lace materials are the pictures of some monuments in Nigeria like the Benin moats, and The Gidan Makama in Kano.
For many Lagosians going to the museum  can bring to life what  they have heard about old Lagos, like the  old secretariat, race course , Kuramo beach where you have the Eko hotel today,  the old Ikorodu road  and what the  Tinubu square  looked  like in  the 40s among other monuments in Lagos.
For firsthand experience of the country’s history, occupation and beliefs, the National Museum, Onikan can be an extremely valuable source for such information.  As we made our way into the main museum, I was impressed by the sheer beauty of the place.
The voice of Omidire Olabisi brought me back to life again , “here we are in the section that contains objects for fertility and birth.”
On display are hoe, wooden gong, Opa Ifa, black pot and osohin staff. He explained that in traditional belief, women must be fertile to give birth and if a woman is married and can not give birth then the Ifa must be consulted, “that is why you have opa ifa, osehin staff.”
After the woman might have been treated and gives birth then you have the birth objects like a stood to be sat on by the new mother and hoe as well as the gong.
“In the some part of Nigeria, the woman will sit on the object to facilitate the delivery, if the child does not cry at birth they beat the hoe with a stick to awaken the baby and the gong to announce the birth of the baby.
“They use this black pot to bury the umbilical cord, if the child is not doing well in the future; they consult the umbilical cord as the pot does not decay.”
There are various objects that take a tourist through the entire life of the child  from naming in traditional Nigerian cultures to adulthood and even deaths.
In adults life the various stages from household, governance; occupation and religion are captured in the objects on display at the museum.
“We have here items for occupation  like  farming, palm wine tapping , fishing  items,  Blacksmith  , weaving,  carving as well as household items , religion like    Sango , Oya, Obatala , Esu.”

Lagos Carnival, regatta thrill tourists at Easter

By Jimoh Babatunde
Lagos state is gradually becoming the city to be for Easter as the annual Lagos Black Heritage Festival has continued to attract tourists to the state.
Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) was filled to the brim on Easter Monday for the grand finale of the week long activities as Lagosians and tourists trooped out to be part of the carnival.
From the National Museum, Onikan,  where the 6km children  carnival kicked off to Ikoyi where the adults  kicked started their  9km parade,  the streets where filled with carnival floats and onlookers watching with excitement.
Vehicular movement was restricted within the Lagos Island as revellers displayed varied creative designs and colourful costumes with a large number of beautiful people.
Over 2500  children from schools in Lagos  took part in the procession  as they  brought  creativity to bear on their choices of costumes depicting stories relating to the theme of this year’s event which is “Bring Back Brazil”.
A day earlier, the state aquatic splendour came alive once again with cultural troupes from around the state on Easter Sunday when the  fourth edition of the  Lagos Water Regatta took place.
Tourists at the Falomo waterfront and Civic centres were thrilled by parade of floats and canoes with traditional, cultural and social troupes from all communities within the state The men in the boats later danced and rowed to show agility and their prowess in handling water transport.
The Regatta consisted of large fishing boats, ferries, water lightening, barges and other marine vessels each depicting the social, cultural, traditional folklores and occupational aspects of the Lagos people.
Governor Babatunde Fashola  said the regatta was a decision of the government to expand, as well as showcase, the cultural heritage of the state.
The Regatta was conceived as part of activities for the celebration of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival which serves as a platform for us to rejuvenate our socio cultural values in the state.
“The Regatta, on its own, has become a social asset, a renaissance of a greater part of the culture of Lagosians. This administration is poised to exploit the commercial essence of its content by heightening the interest of corporate organisations here in Lagos and around the country in promoting it into tourist’s delight.”
Earlier the Regatta Planning Committee Chairman, Mr. Olusegun Jawando, said the event offered the opportunity for residents and tourists to enjoy the beauty of the lagoon in a safe and exciting atmosphere.
He said, “The Lagos Regatta is a private sector initiative supported by the state government as a part of the Black Heritage Week event. It is born out of the desire of the government to draw attention to the state’s waterways which is one of its biggest assets.”