Large mining and construction projects have a responsibility to improve their host communities. ACMS Shelela shares this duty with our clients. Our legacy initiatives include local employment, local procurement and skills transfer within our supply chain to assist emerging entrepreneurs to establish sustainable enterprises.
Leaving a lasting and sustainable legacy is both the challenge and the mission of mining companies the world over. In Botswana, at the Jwaneng Cut 8 expansion project, CMSB, Fluor and Debswana have joined resources to create a legacy project that is uniquely innovative and inspiring.
A mine village kitchen with a classically-trained French chef in charge is not a common occurrence. CMSB bucked the stereotype when it contracted Frederic Robichon as executive chef in the Cut 8 village. Frederic is a graduate of the Loire Valley Chef School in France and has cooked in some of the finest kitchens in the world. At the end of 2010 he decided to expand his portfolio to include construction site catering and the management of the systems it involves.
Frederic understands the power of an opportunity, and soon after joining CMSB he reactivated the exchange programme he had previously set up between his alma mater and his then South African employer. In April 2011, two students from the Loire Valley Chef School, Marie Pouzot and Julie Legris, arrived in Botswana for an internship to learn about managing a large industrial kitchen. They will return to France on 9 August.
The reciprocal leg of the exchange programme provided CMSB with an opportunity to create an inspiring legacy project. Under Frederic's guidance, and with the support of Fluor and Debswana, CMSB invited its entire catering staff to enter a competition to select 3 Batswana chefs to be trained in France.
On 13 July 2011, the 8 finalists displayed their skill in a Masterchef-style event hosted at the Cut 8 village. Each chef received a basket of ingredients based on which they had to plan a 3-course menu. Cooking started at 10:00; starters had to be served at 12:00, the main course at 13:00 and dessert at 14:00.
The entrants covered the full spectrum of culinary experience. One contestant was a chef at the Gabarone Sun for 6 years before joining CMSB at Jwaneng. Another was jobless when CMSB employed him as a dishwasher a year ago. His interest in food inspired him to work double shifts to learn more and today he is the head chef at CMSB's camp at the new Ghaghoo Diamond Mine development.
The panel of judges, led by Pamela Marolong, head of Botswana's only chef training school, was unanimous in their appreciation of the chefs' efforts. "I have been mightily impressed with the standard here today," said Michael Miskin, CMSB director and one of the judges.
After much tasting and deliberating, the judges announced their decision. The winners of the French training experience were Gordon Nthobatsang, Goitseone Pitse and Onthusitse Tsabong.
Dan Powell, Fluor Project Director at Cut 8, aptly summarised the significance of this initiative: "You never know where an opportunity like this will take you in the world." Geoff Jones from Debswana said: "This is more than a cooking competition; this is legacy."
Given the increasingly important role of tourism in diversifying Botswana's economy, there can be no doubt about the need for chefs able to provide a world class fine-dining experience to guests staying at the country's hotels and lodges.
The group left for France on 9 October 2011 and returned to Botswana on 3 January 2012. They have already started in their new jobs:
• Gordon, who was the top student in France, has been appointed as head chef at Orapa.
• Goitseone has been promoted to second-in-charge of the management dining room at Jwaneng.
• Tsabong is now the camp supervisor of the new 60-person CMSB camp in the Jwaneng Game Reserve.