“It is special for me as I’m doing it with passion. I enjoy the job despite the pressure, just being positive every day and encouraging my team to do the best.”
That’s Chef Paul Senguena talking about his demanding role as executive chef at Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan.
It’s a challenge that Chef Paul is well-accustomed to given his long and colourful culinary love affair dating back to his younger years in Yaoundé in Cameroon.
We chat with the amiable cook to get to know him more and his long but inspiring journey as a professional chef…
How did your passion for cooking start?
My passion for cooking started when I was a child. I was always in the kitchen to help my mother everytime she’s cooking.
My mother used to kick me out of the kitchen most of the time. One day she and my father had a big fight and she left, leaving us for a few days.
So with no one to take care of us, I started spending more time in the kitchen trying to imitate my mother’s cooking from taste, texture, consistency and taste.
What made you decide to be a chef?
I was working part time for this restaurant that was being renovated. We had access everywhere and I found myself going to the kitchen frequently and watching the chef in action.
One day I asked the chef if I can help him but was told to speak to the owner, a French lady. She didn’t allow me at first since I’m not a professional chef or had any experience. But I kept asking and was probably swayed by my persistence so she finally relented.
I trained under a talented chef named Anthony Belinga for almost a year. He encouraged me to study hospitality so I enrolled in Cefor Hotellerie School where I went to class every evening after work.
What happened after your culinary study?
I continued to work in the same restaurant until Chef Anthony resigned. The owner then asked me to take over in the kitchen. I accepted the challenge and went on to work there for four years. It was an amazing moment for me.
Do you have specialty dish?
Beef Bourguignon is my favorite dish. It’s a challenging dish to make and have the passion, patience and heart to cook it properly.
What year did you join Novotel?
I joined the Novotel family in April 2009. I worked in three different Novotel hotels before joining Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan in August 2018.
I have many responsibilities and that include ensuring that all our guests across all of our restaurants are happy and satisfied with the food and service.
Mind telling us some of your future plans for the restaurants?
The plan is to rebrand most of the outlets in the hotel with new concepts and even stronger facelifts or revamping. It has already started with the recent relaunch of Waves Bar & Outdoor Lounge where the entire concept including food and offerings were totally changed to come up with a more contemporary ambience. This was followed by few changes in Pepper All Day Dining to further boost its own brand and identity in the market.