Nomvula Ngqolwa looks across Creation’s Tasting Room and sees two guests about to be seated. They seem a little uncertain about the experience, perhaps newcomers to wine and food pairing, and unsure of what to expect. She smiles. These are her kind of guests and she knows just how to make them feel welcome, put them at ease, and how to make sure that they will return. It all began with specialised training and a career far removed from the hospitality industry.
When Nomvula matriculated in Hermanus, she followed in her aunt’s footsteps and worked with special needs people of all ages. “I really felt compassion for the people I worked with … and when I was growing up, I realised my people knew very little about special needs. Often I’d witness bullying and I wanted members of my community to understand that you should treat people the same way as you would like to be treated. There’s no better quality than being yourself, being a good human being and a caring person.”
While working with special needs people in Cape Town, and awaiting a position at Camphill Farm Community, in 2012 Nomvula applied and was accepted as a field worker in a small town in Germany for a year. “I had the opportunity to grow and in a way, come out of my shell.” Although she was invited to stay longer, Hermanus was home.
Looking for a change and a challenge, Nomvula applied for a job at Creation in the Hemel-en-Aarde as a Front of House assistant, a position she held for over two years before she felt she was ready to be a hospitality assistant with focused training by Braam West (South African Butler Association).
“Interacting with guests can be challenging but I love people and can’t see myself sitting behind the scenes in an office! In a way, I still ‘take care’ of people and while there are some guests who come in and are ready to enjoy their meal, I look for those who need a special something, people who may feel a bit out of place.”
Beyond being trained for excellent service, is the opportunity for personal growth. “When we are trained here, it’s not just for Creation. We take that training home, to our families and our community.’’
Among the highlights of her career is the three months of work experience gained at the prestigious Kasteel Engelenburg in the Netherlands. “I learnt something new every day, also about myself, and it was great coming back and sharing what I had learnt with my colleagues at Creation.”
Guests who may arrive out of sorts will be lucky if Nomvula is their first encounter in the Tasting Room. “I think the important thing is not to reflect the attitude they bring but greet it with kindness. Whatever upset them at home, you need to meet with good service, offer a way to relax and enjoy the experience, to be in the present.”
What makes Nomvula happy? “I think it is my colleagues,” she says. “We may not always see eye to eye, but when I wake up and come to work, we have fun. We enjoy our day. When you have that kind of relationship with your colleagues, you take with you that love, that energy, and that positivity that leads directly to how you deal with guests.”