Hector Mnyayiza has taken the helm of the kitchens as Executive Chef at The Maslow Sandton. It is a position he has had his heart set on since he joined the hotel two years ago. Thrilled about his promotion, Chef Hector is already working on a new menu for the hotel’s Lacuna Bistro and is creating a new business lunch concept.
“In the heart of Sandton, Gauteng’s financial and shopping district, Lacuna Bistro is within close proximity to the Gautrain and guests have free Wifi and secure parking, making it an ideal location for offsite business and networking lunches. We want to harness this.
“I am also looking to create family styled experiences on weekends, such as a buffet lunch overlooking our tranquil oasis gardens. I am excited about being able to come up with new dishes and work with a great team of people. I have one of the best teams that any chef could ever wish for,” says Chef Hector enthusiastically.
Chef Hector joined Sun International in 2001 as an Executive Sous Chef. Since then, he has worked at some of the Groups’ most exciting hotels and resorts including Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom in KwaZulu-Natal and Windmill in Bloemfontein.
Rugby was his first love and he dreamed of playing for the Sharks and the Springboks one day. He was awarded a rugby scholarship and was schooled at Kearsney College in KwaZulu-Natal. However, after matriculating from school he found himself at a crossroads and had to make a choice between rugby and his other passion, cooking.
Chef Hector recalls, “My mother taught me how to cook. At the age of 10, I was already cooking family dinners and Christmas lunches. It was during high school that I realised that I could make it a career. During the holidays, I worked at a golf course in hillcrest as a part time cook. I still remember the words from the chef at the Camelot Country Club, ‘if you don’t have the passion for being a chef, then don’t come into my kitchen’. I knew back then that I did have passion and I wanted to be there.”
Under the guidance of Russell Stevens who gave him the opportunity to study at the International Hotel School, he committed to studying towards a qualification in hospitality. While at the International Hotel School, he did his in-service training at the famous Royal Hotel in Durban.
“I was trained by some of the best chefs in the business. If I could mention one, it would be Chef Luke Nair who has been a mentor to me from the first day that I walked into the busy kitchen as a first year student who knew absolutely nothing. I was told that he is a hard man and very demanding. That was true as I was soon to find out. Tough as he is, Chef Luke has been a great inspiration to me throughout my career. When I arrived at The Maslow, I was also privileged to work with Chef Justin Maharaj. What a talented chef, I really learned a lot from Chef Justin,” says Chef Hector.
He lists competing in the Chaine des Rotisseurs in 2008 and winning a medal as one of the highlights of his career. Another highlight was being appointed as Executive Chef at Sun International’s Windmill Casino in Bloemfontein. “That is where I learned the tremendous responsibility that comes with the role,” he says.
It has been a long but exciting and rewarding road to get to where he is today. “The long hours and the amount of time you spend away from your family and missing family gatherings can be tough at times. I miss being around for my son. It is only with perseverance and dedication that one will succeed in this industry. You have to be prepared to sacrifice weekends and family time which will pay off in the long term,” he says, adding that he finds it rewarding to be able to give back to the industry by mentoring young chefs.
To those keen to pursue a career in the culinary field, he has this advice: “Make sure that this is what you want to do. Once you find an in, work hard, focus and learn as much as you can from all the chefs around you. The most important ingredient is respect. Remember to stay humble.”