Behind the scenes: Working in Dubai’s hospitality industry
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Behind the scenes: Working in Dubai’s hospitality industry

Dubai will soon unveil the world’s tallest hotel. The JW Marriott Marquis – a 355 meter hotel from the house of Marriott International – is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of this year, further cementing Dubai’s reputation as a leading hospitality destination. The two-tower hotel, just 26 meters short of New York’s Empire State Building, will boast 1,608 rooms, nine restaurants, five lounges, two ballrooms, and 24 meeting rooms – promising to set new standards for luxury.

Dubai, one of the most popular emirates in the UAE, is a unique city. Capitalising on its attractive location, the city has built its reputation on an array of hotels, an electric nightlife, great shopping and five-star service. The city, which provides high-quality service and a culinary feast for its guests, is always in need for more personnel due to the constant investment in the industry. The thriving jobs market, greatly receptive to foreign employees, has contributed to creating Dubai’s dynamic multi-cultural community.

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The Dubai Marina - the centre of the city's business hub

Murtaza Burhani, who works in western grill section of The Market Cafe restaurant of the city’s popular hotel Grand Hyatt, told Asian Correspondent: “Dubai has one of the biggest tourism industries and it is growing every day. In 2011, we had 15,000 new rooms added to the business. The city itself has more than 127 nationalities and takes pride in its multiculturalism. Dubai is open and welcoming to foreign nationals who want to join its workforce, so there are plenty of jobs. The hospitality industry especially is the biggest market here and didn’t suffer even during the recession. There is constant growth and one can always find a job.”

He continues: “Working in hospitality is tremendously fulfilling. If you’re part of this industry, you are very well taken care of. Your accommodation, transport, food and insurance are sorted for you – we even have doctors both in the hotel and in our accommodation. There are struggles as well – guests expect the highest standard of service and performance needs to be top-notch on a daily basis. I am constantly responsible for the grill section that I run at the Grand Hyatt where every detail counts. There needs to be perfection in everything, not just the food; right from clothes, shoes, cleanliness and presentation, to communication with guests. But it’s all worth it to see a guest happy with the quality of service.”

There is a large demand for professionally trained staff. The International Centre for Culinary Arts Dubai (ICCA Dubai) is a leading educator for prospective hospitality and culinary employees looking to find jobs at five-star luxury hotels. Murtaza, a graduate of the institute, says: “Employers are looking for individuals with a positive attitude and good English language skills. They want to hire people who take pride in whatever they do and produce the highest quality of work. They are looking for individuals with management skills to see if they can lead a team in the future.

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Culinary students at ICCA Dubai. Pic: ICCA Dubai.

“At ICCA Dubai, my aim was to train in cooking but the institute trained me in so many other things apart from only cooking. From the little things like how to be polite when answering the phone or managing myself under pressure, right through to the technical aspects of how to handle stock and decrease wastage of food.”

Murtaza explains the importance of training to succeed in the hospitality industry: “It is very important to be trained. When you are professionally qualified, you are in control of your job and do not have to play catch-up. I have seen so many people spending months trying to get to grips with their jobs because they were not trained.”

And at ICCA Dubai, students are exposed to a range of training opportunities – both within the classroom and outside. Murtaza recounts all the different work experiences he had the opportunity to participate in due to his training at ICCA: “The Grand Hyatt would often ask for help from ICCA Dubai students during their banquets. This was a great opportunity as if they liked the students, they would hire them. The one other event that was a great experience was at the Meydan Hotel for the Dubai Horse Racing Championships. All of this was real on-the-job training for us and prepared us for our careers. And the best part was that most of these opportunities were paid, so would act as a great source for pocket money!”

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Pic: ICCA Dubai

Students at ICCA Dubai have access to not just superb training opportunities within the industry but also receive tremendous career support from the institute. “ICCA guarantees you jobs,” says Murtaza. 45 days from the commencement of your programme, individual CVs are floated around the UAE hospitality industry for internship and placement opportunities. ICCA does all the legwork, and students are then informed of dates and venues for their interviews. They don’t give up on you and I am thankful because I am living the dream with my job at the Grand Hyatt.”

The upcoming world’s tallest hotel, JW Marriott Marquis, is dwarfed by Burj Khalifa. Standing at 830 meters, this is world’s tallest man-made building and also hosts Giorgio Armani’s first hotel – the Armani Hotel Dubai. Sudeep Chitre is a patisserie chef at the lifestyle dining restaurant At.mosphere at the hotel. Another graduate of ICCA Dubai, he tells Asian Correspondent: “ICCA Dubai provided the best platform for me, teaching me everything right from the basics to all the details key to surviving in this industry. Tests at the institute guarantee that students have learnt all that they have been taught. All the staff are constantly available for support not just for academics, but to make certain that graduates can easily survive in the hotel industry after completion of their programme.

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A waitress serves snacks at At.mosphere, the world's highest restaurant in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Pic: AP.

Elaborating on his position at the restaurant, Sandeep says: “The type of desserts we have been serving here are both old school and contemporary. To keep the quality and standards high, we need to create things from scratch on a daily basis. The most challenging part of the job is to produce what the head chef has in his mind and make it look good on the plate.”

Sudeep’s advice to budding chefs is to not lose their focus by chasing celebrity dreams: “Passion, focus and patience are the three most important things for a chef. At the end there are never any limitations for a chef. Being a chef allows you to explore as much as you can with your own ideas and thoughts.”

Choosing to study and then work abroad can often be daunting. Murtaza, who has lived all his life in Dubai, says: “There is so much to do in Dubai! Malls, movies, bowling, skating, beaches, partying… there is never a dull moment. This is a very diverse and multi cultural city and international students would fit in very well.”

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