1990 – A Year of What Was I Thinking? Part One

Okay as mentioned last week it is now welcome to the 90’s after two great years working in Switzerland. Getting all that Swiss training in Food and Beverage was awesome and now I was ready for new challenges.

Only one problem though , I was returning back to Montreal with an idea of traveling further afield to utilize what I had learned. Before leaving Switzerland , I sent a whole bunch of resumes to Hawaii figuring that with me on a roll and having had the good experience of Swiss hotels that finding an employer to sponsor me would not be an issue. I sent the resumes from Switzerland in December with my contact info that of Montreal cause I was going to be there shortly.

So I returned and there was no replies right off the bat so I did a bit of a job search in Montreal while I was waiting. I ended up applying to the Four Seasons and had 2 interviews. The GM knew the place I worked in Switzerland as he was Swiss himself. The Four Seasons would have been a good move in hindsight or would it have been? I’m happy to say now it would not have been but at the time the way things were going with the situation of not getting a call back from anything in Hawaii at the time I should have stayed home to work there. Instead what happened is the day before they were going to call me to accept me for a post with the hotel I received a call from a hotel in Hawaii pertaining to a job opportunity. What do I do? I am on the phone with this guy from Hawaii and I ask him regarding work permit and he mentions he is going to check on it and would I be interested in coming for an interview.

Now I did say on my resume I would be in Hawaii toward the end of January for interviews but it was sort of a bluff you see to get a call so I can ask about if it would be hard for I to get a work permit. My dilemna was I didn’t have the funds to get me to Hawaii and back let alone how expensive it would be for me to stay any length of time there.

Ever the optimist I decided when I talk with this guy again the following night and he is going to tell me that it is no problem and come on down after a mini interview over the phone. Then I would have gone there in a heartbeat low on cash or not. The next day the Four Seasons calls to tell me I got the job and I think you could hear a pin drop when I said that my plans had changed and was no longer going to be in Montreal. They were dumbfounded to say the least.

Later on that day the guy from Hawaii calls back , or did I call him back I cannot remember , to tell me the news that he is not sure about work permits. In other words come for an interview and we’ll see. I persist a bit but realize this guy is going to interview me and just put me in a list of possible candidates. And I will be broke in Hawaii. I think if I had the cash I would have gone but I didn’t.

So in less than a day I had told the Four Seasons no and put Hawaii on the shelve.

This is only January and I am running short on what cash I have but then after doing some research I discover that if one of your grandparents was born in the UK you can get a work visa.

There you go! So I send for a photstat birth certificate of my grandmother who was born somewhere in Croyden. Now all I have to do is sit around the house and gab with my Mother. I had a few Cater and Hotelkeeper trade magazines that I carried around and was salivating at all the jobs that they had over there. At this point in time too , nearly all my friends were in Europe so this would be great to get back close to them.

Finally at the end of February after checking the mail box day after day I get the birth certificate and head down to the British Consulate to get the visa. No problem and a week later with Mom crying that I was leaving again boarded a 747 to London England with about $500 in my pocket and 3 suitcases. No job interviews lined up but you know that part once I touched down and made a few calls I would be working in no time. Yeah Right!!

Now the lack of planning that went into this was astronomical. Time was running out when I left as the well had all but dried up and here I was jumping into a taxi with my 3 bags taking me to a B & B on Sussex Gardens near Paddington where I was going to stay hopefully only a few days to find work. This B & B was something else. One night while I was fast asleep someone knocked on my door and opened it with a key when upon noticing me waking up to say what do they want apologized to say they must have the wrong room. I fell back asleep to find out that about 6 rooms were robbed because these people must have got hold of the master key. Crazy!

Well my first job I get out of the paper and it is for a F and B Manager position at a Wena Hotel near Gatwick airport. I head for the interview taking the tube then a train to Gatwick from Victoria Station and after a shuttle taking me to the hotel. Now the money has run out and I am desperate and when you are you will take anything. I had another opportunity at this new hotel opening up in Ashford Kent , had the interview and pretty much had the job as restaurant manager , but because the title of F and B sounded so much better and was a natural progression from Asst F and B went for that instead.

Now at the Wena they had a weird way of doing things and I was there to straighten it out. The owners were Egyptian. Anything the chef ordered had to be okayed by the accountant first , chef could only make requistions 3 days a week and order minimally each week from suppliers. In other words if things ran out , tough. The food was smothered in sauces and there were so many liqueurs bought for guests each night the bar was losing money. The Maitre’d had not a day off for 2 months now. The staff accomodation was hideous , like barracks. The front desk staff couldn’t smile if their life depended on it. It was bad and in the meeting when I did propose some changes that would make things better , the GM who at the beginning gave me carte blanche to fix things nixed it all and sided with the accountant. A couple of days later after only one week , yes only one week , I snuck out on the first shuttle with my bags and took an Assistant Conference and Banqueting Manager position with that Ashford International Hotel who interviewed me just before.

For temporary accommodation they put me up in one of their sister hotels nearby till I could get a spot to live in. I found a room in a big house shared by a few others. It was tough. After a promotion to restaurant manager and helping train the staff I asked for a raise. The raise was not forthcoming and at a salary of 10,000 pounds a year and having to wait another 9 months before salary review I decided to lick my wounds and head back to Canada. My thoughts of working and living in Europe evaporated. The only place I could legally do it was the UK and salaries just did not come close to that of the cost of living. Maybe things have gotten better since but at that time I was stuck. I licked my wounds and got a Virgin Airways ticket and headed back in June.

I guess in retrospect a little better planning should have been done by me but live and learn. It was an experience. But what happened in the second half of the year which I will leave till next Monday was bizarre. I don’t know what I was thinking but I got out of a real jam that I have only myself to blame for. I still had some wild things going on in my brain and that together with the travel bug landed me in strange places. The second instalment of 1990 – What was I Thinking happens next Monday.


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