I finished high school and like many people didn’t know what career path I wanted to pursue at that specific time in my life, after all, I was only a teenager at the time.
I wasn’t allowed to take a gap year like some of my friends, so I just took the first job I could, a creditor’s clerk for a magazine distribution company. I worked there for a while and realized that I do not want to confine myself to a “desk job” for the rest of my life, so I spoke to a friend of mine who at the time was enrolled at The Swiss Hotel School to find out what it was like. I was intrigued enough to do some research on hospitality careers, and shortly thereafter I applied to SHS and got accepted, and thus, my hospitality career started.
I was older than 95% of the students in my first year, as most of my classmates started right after finishing high school. I felt a little out of place at first, but I found out very quickly that age is only a number, especially in the hospitality industry.
The Swiss Hotel School provided me with a solid overall understanding of the hospitality industry in my first year, covering all the basics, not only the theory behind it but also the practical aspect with competent and knowledgeable teachers.
SHS prepared me, both mentally and physically, for the sometimes tough, but always rewarding world of hospitality.
In my second year, SHS provided me with an opportunity to do my long internship abroad in the United States for 6 months, which was daunting at first, but then turned into one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
After coming back from the U.S. I felt prepared and ready for my third and final year at SHS with a newfound confidence that I never knew I had. I ended up being selected by my peers as the restaurant manager for our final practical project and we turned it into a huge success.
Since I graduated from SHS I have been keeping extremely busy. I went back to the U.S. after graduation for another “front-of-house” internship for a full year at a resort hotel in South Carolina, covering all the aspects that I just couldn’t get through on my first trip over the pond because of the limited time I initially had.
I returned to South Africa and received an offer to manage a restaurant in Cape Town. With all my knowledge I quickly got promoted to senior manager overseeing not only the one restaurant but three restaurants owned by the same owners. Whilst in Cape Town, I received and accepted an offer to be the GM of a 120 room conference hotel in the Free State, overseeing all operations. I absolutely loved it, but my heart yearned for the city lights again. I saw on social media that David Higgs, South African celebrity chef (whom I met and worked with for a brief period in my first year at The Saxon, another opportunity provided to me by SHS), was opening a new restaurant in the heart of Sandton. I polished my CV and sent it through without high expectations, as I heard they had received well over 500 CVs, but fate had already decided that I was destined for this monumental opportunity.
I received a call and was invited for an interview with the MD, we connected right off the bat and he invited me for a second interview to meet with the owners, David Higgs, and his business partner. The interview went well and I got offered the opportunity to be part of the management team to open their new 300-seater restaurant, which I gladly accepted. I am currently still there and happy to say that we are still booked out every single night after a year of operation and still going strong.
This has all happened within the space of 8 years, from starting my studies to where I am now. It hasn’t always been easy, nothing worthwhile in life is, but with hard work and the right attitude, you can quickly move up in the world of hospitality and reach your dreams.
~ Phil Cornelissen.