Christmas on St Helena is a big deal, although not in such a commercial way as in the UK. It is certainly not in the way that is illustrated in the popular UK press of young out of control revellers making a total embarrassment of themselves.
The shops do stock up on chocolates, nuts and many other sinful treats which probably left the UK in August to get here in time for the retail rush. There are queues outside the vegetable stands and supermarket check outs and parking in Jamestown in December is impossible!
Lucky for us 2onMain is right in the main stretch of the town giving us and our guests for the evening a great view of the parade. We even had Santa give us a wave and a cheer! The pictures only show some of the great goings on as we were also trying to maintain some order in the kitchen by continuing the food service although a bit difficult when not only your staff but the customers are outside the building lining the pavements and cheering!
So it’s a very merry Christmas to all from St Helena, my second Christmas over here.
In the meantime, this video is worth watching.
West Jet over in Canada created it and it’s a fine example of great customer service! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIEIvi2MuEk
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ST HELENA
Julian Morris has been our Chief Executive for Economic Development for the past two years.
His time on the island is coming to a close and the inevitable round of leaving events have been scheduled.
One of the first ones was held by my colleagues at the training restaurant a couple of Sundays ago.
This was a surprise party for Julian as can be seen by the look on his face when walking down the stairs into our basement and garden.
We kept the format simple and easy with a “Saint Barbecue”
Chicken and local Tuna were thrown on the barbecue and were accompanied by a variety of salads and potato dishes.
Plenty of wine flowed that day and a great time was had by all!
Waiting in the rain for the unveiling of the plaque
The occasion was the official opening of the Ladder Hill Business Park in Half Tree Hollow which contains a variety of businesses such as, Cater Hire, Jewellery design and Maintenance Services. The business park didn’t exist a few years ago and has been created as part of the improvements to business locations across St Helena.
The event was also fashioned to remind guests that we only have 32 more months before the airport arrives and the first planes land! Our brief was to provide a short menu of easy to eat products at a reasonable price from local ingredients for up to 100 persons.
The menu consisted of three items; local Tuna or Wahoo Steaks or a Veggie Burger served in a bun with salad and a choice of relishes. The food was to be cooked and served by our trainees with just a little supervision from us trainers. There was also a request for a cake.
Two of the park tenants cutting the cake!
The day before the event we set to work on mountains of lettuce, tomatoes and of course the fish. When ingredients are as fresh and as good quality as they are over here it is a real pleasure to work with them.
In fact when we were prepping the tuna, I took some of the smaller slices and put them into a marinade of ginger, lemon juice and salt for a minute or two and then we ate them! This might not sound so significant but getting the trainees to eat raw tuna when all they have seen in the past is cooked is some challenge let me tell you! The verdict by the way was positive although not something they would eat at home.
Friday loomed with grey skies and a 25mph wind from the south east (it's winter here) which when translated onto the hillside where the business park lies, meant horizontal blasts of wind and rain punctuated by occasional shots of bright sunshine……a British spring day. Luckily we were sheltered by a large gazebo which rattled and shook throughout the afternoon but held fast to the bitter end.
The team got to work with great professionalism and zeal and took to serving food outdoors as if they had been doing it all their lives. At times the queues were long and the students had to communicate with their customers that their food might take a few minutes; all done in good cheer with smiles and eye contact….Brilliant!!
Grilling with a sea view
Feedback from the customers was very positive throughout the event.
For example one gentleman came up to me after his second fish roll to suggest that perhaps we should set up permanently on a Saturday evening in town.
When I asked what sort of times he was thinking of, the response was something along the lines of “well if you open around 9.00pm and keep going until 2.00am you should do good business”……..maybe in another lifetime I think!
Having said that, it shows there is a market on St Helena for good food of whatever style and there are many business opportunities over here increasing toward the arrival of the airport.
Even if some are in the middle of the night!
This week we are celebrating the signing of two new apprentices to the hospitality training programme.
This brings are number of apprentices up to three and we have two more joining us in two months’ time.
Numbers might sound small however the total school leavers for 2012 and 2013 are only in the region of 20 to 30 youngsters. Any Saint is welcome to join us to see whether they would like to work in this type of career and some are coming just to get some hands on training rather than going through an accreditation process.
In order to become an apprentice on the programme the student has to work with us for 12 weeks to demonstrate their commitment to working the antisocial hours which come with a career in this line.
We also have Chelsea with us who will be returning to school in September with the goal of getting enough qualifications to go to university in a couple of years’ time.
Our training team has increased in number with the addition of two new arrivals.
Both are Saints and have worked in a variety of catering establishments, not only in the UK but also on the Falkland Islands where many Saints currently work.
Sandra has been working as a Chef for over 20 years and is welcoming the opportunity to return home.
Mandy was in Swindon and before that the Falklands, Mandy’s background of admin, accounts and customer service will help keep things on a smooth pathway.
Our next challenge is to get more trainees signed up and start offering accredited Hospitality courses.
We are working on offering two Diploma courses. One is in Professional Cookery and the other, Food and Beverage
Service. Following on from this will be spin offs into supervisory and managerial qualifications.
It has taken us the six months that I have been here to get this far.
Roll on the next six months!
This week is one of the highlights of the St Helena Calendar as we are celebrating the discovery of this pinprick of an island in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1502.
The Portuguese navigator Joao da Nova is reported to be the one who discovered and named St Helena.
Following years saw no settlement forming although the island became a destination for replenishing supplies and water.
It was Oliver Cromwell who granted the East India Company a charter to govern St Helena in 1657 and therefore claim the island as a British Colony.
The island celebrates with a public holiday for all and a variety of events across the island. We offered a traditional afternoon tea at 2onMain
Sandra keeping check on the orders as they come in
Our trainees created the following menu which included the following:
Pickled Pork and Mango Chutney Sandwiches
Smoked Tuna and Cucumber Sandwiches
Egg and Cress Mayonnaise Sandwiches
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Scones with Jam and Cream
Outside the front door the party was just starting with a parade through the town.
The pictures below are the view from the restaurant!
Later on in the evening there are parties and fireworks and probably many a sore head the following day!
The past six weeks has been the busiest for 2onMAIN so far.
The word has got out that we are a good choice of restaurant on the island and that individual celebrations are well looked after.
We have been astounded by the popularity of the restaurant across all ages and social groups on the island (who could ask for more?).
This has included a number of birthday festivities for young Saints including young Katie Williams who celebrated her 9th birthday one Friday evening.
Valentines night was booked up three weeks ahead and not just with couples which was a pleasant change.
Over here Valentines is a night to enjoy the company of friends and loved ones so we were pleased to take two tables of 6 and two tables of 4 amongst the couples. The ambiance in the restaurant was all the better for it as there was a real buzz to the place.
Noteworthy visitors to St Helena and to 2onMAIN over the past month included the key decision makers of two hotel
companies who are thinking of investing on the island. They were Mantis and Protea Hotel groups, both of South African decent; although Mantis has properties worldwide. The feedback on food and service from both parties was very positive which was incredibly motivating for the team here. We are looking forward to future visits from both companies and closer working relations especially as my
trainees will their employees of the
Christmas on St Helena
Although it is now the end of January I thought it might be of interest to tell you about the Christmas celebrations on St Helena before we get to the end of this month!
Traditional is the key word here with family get togethers reaching a high point on Christmas day itself.
The island’s population increases by up to 1000 people which considering we are only 4000 on island at the moment, is no mean feat. Most of the visitors are Saints who travel from the UK, Ascension Island and the Falklands to be home with their loved ones. As getting here is a long and arduous and expensive exercise people
usually return home every three or four years and stay for around a month. The island has a real buzz to it with
the town’s restaurants and bars a focus point.
Parades are another highlight of the season, which gets the island’s children really excited for the festive season. There are at least two parades each year, one for Christmas Eve and the other usually by the schools to raise money
for one cause or another. Dressing up is obligatory, both people and vehicles as I think you can see by some of