Growing up as an island boy in the serene country of Mauritius, Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Tennant did not foresee himself working in hospitality. It all took a spin when he made a visit to his hometown during a study break, while pursuing an engineering career in Australia. JP was lured into the fascinating and dynamic hospitality industry when he worked in a hotel during his holiday. Quitting his engineering studies from there onwards, JP began his new journey. Upon completion of hospitality studies from Switzerland, JP switched his profession.

Food and Beverage being his main area of experience, JP has had the opportunity to work in luxurious resorts, hotels, ships and restaurants across the globe.

JP found himself in the pristine shores of Maldives a little over a year ago. Joining the splendid Constance Halaveli, a magical hideaway nested in the North Ari Atoll of the Maldives, JP found his home away from home.

Sitting in the hospitality lounge of Halaveli, sipping from his lemongrass iced tea; JP shares his journey with us and where his culinary inspiration comes from.

JP expressed how he landed himself in the Maldives: “I have been lucky because from the very first hotel I ever worked and until now, each property has been a school to me. Learning never ends and it’s fantastic! I got the golden opportunity of joining Constance Halaveli after completing my last work contract in California. Being a highly recognised Mauritian institution, Constance Hotels, Resorts and Golf has been on my mind for a long time. I somehow now have a connection to home while being in the paradise islands of Maldives.”

Talking about the culinary accomplishments, of which he is most proud, JP reminisced about his experiences from his days in San Diego. “Successfully catering for hundreds of people for the 4th of July festivities around both pools I managed. It was crazy!”

As Maldives is renowned for its impressive culinary scene, JP described the culinary experience of his guests at Halaveli as “elegantly abundant!” He continued, “we are famous for the freshness of our food items, for the large variety of breakfast items on the buffet. We serve fantastic Japanese dishes at our sushi bar. The worldwide themed buffets rotate on a nightly basis and our two à-la-carte restaurants are very popular. Meeru is exactly what you would expect from a “barefoot grill” — amazing food and great service. Jing is our Asian fusion, elegant dining restaurant where the creativity of the Chef is paired with the pristine level of service, in order to create the perfect dining experience. Our cocktails are inspiring and both bars offer picturesque sunset views. At Constance, we take pride in our broad wine selection.”

Moving on to a more focussed discussion on his job responsibilities, JP talked about his areas of responsibility and key tasks as an F&B Manager. “Learn from the past, act in the present and plan for the future. The Halaveli Food and Beverage team ensures that the outlets are welcoming and that our personalised services are naturally pleasant. I have to coordinate the flow of guests in the outlets, to optimise the dining experience at all levels. Daily decisions are taken based on external factors such as the weather, since we want our guests to enjoy the island’s outdoor vibe as much as possible.”

From the photo galleries and libraries at Halaveli, I have had the opportunity to glance through various special events they have held for their guests. Especially the property being popular among destination wedding couples. The highlight amongst all, for me, was the honeymoon breakfast arrangement. I loved the unique concept of breakfast ‘dhoni’ (Maldivian boat), where the honeymooners get to enjoy their breakfast in the middle of the ocean; after the wedding day. I am definite it is a favourite for the guests at Halaveli. Sliding through more images on the photo gallery, I asked JP about any unique event or activity that has been planned for 2020, especially targeted at wedding couples and honeymooners.

“The breakfast dhoni experience is definitely well appreciated by our guests as they get to see the beauty of the island while enjoying an immersive experience within a floating postcard, transported by the captain and served by their waiter, both wearing regal Maldivian outfits.”

“My two favourite events are the sandbank picnic and the Arabic tent. Coming to the Maldives and having a picnic on the nearby sandbank is a total “wow” factor. On the other hand, the Arabic tent is an evening experience which starts with a private photoshoot, followed by a vintage champagne aperitif listening to the private musician, this naturally flows into a seven-course meal ending with a shisha in the tent or under the stars.”

“For me, the perfect day would be to enjoy the sandbank picnic in the day and follow through with the Arabic tent dinner for an ultimate experience.”

“The breakfast dhoni experience is definitely well appreciated by our guests as they get to see the beauty of the island while enjoying an immersive experience within a floating postcard, transported by the captain and served by their waiter, both wearing regal Maldivian outfits.”

“My two favourite events are the sand bank picnic and the Arabic tent. Coming to the Maldives and having a picnic on the nearby sandbank is a total “wow” factor. On the other hand, the Arabic tent is an evening experience which starts with a private photoshoot, followed by a vintage champagne aperitif listening to the private musician, this naturally flows into a seven-course meal ending with a shisha in the tent or under the stars.”

Since his career is majorly based on an F&B background, I was very curious to know, what was most important to him as a guest in a restaurant, how could they impress him! Explaining the scenario, JP said “I am naturally very easily satisfied in a restaurant, but very hard to impress. All the elements have to perfectly come together like Tchaikovsky’s four-act Swan Lake. The restaurant’s concept needs to be clearly defined and highlighted, and it needs to be true to its authenticity. It is crucial that the ambiance is appealing (lighting, table-ware, art and seating layout need to create a smooth flow). The chemistry between the kitchen crew and the waiting staff is paramount. The food has to be prepared with love, show respect to the ingredients and be served in a naturally pleasant manner. All of these elements combined create the perfect dining experience and can be found in any style of restaurant, no matter how cheap or expensive. The last time I was impressed was in Korea at a reasonably priced BBQ restaurant, where the synchronised service team flipped the tables systematically in less than ninety-seconds and the guests were seated within the next thirty-seconds… a “Rolex” moment!

JP’s biggest inspiration in the industry has been Chef William Bradley. “Multi-awarded Addison restaurant’s Chef William Bradley has been a truly inspiring culinary icon to me ever since I met him and I had a great opportunity to work with him in San Diego. His meticulousness, the passion behind every move and the silent execution are mesmerizing. There is so much talent behind every dish, from the procurement, preparation, precision in the plating to the synchronised service.”

During stressful days, JP de-stresses himself with the thoughts of the soothing ocean! “I think of the ocean and the waves. Sometimes we have to hold our breath while under there and trust that a calm sea is around the corner.”

Describing his career highlight, JP said “waking up with two right sides to my bed and knowing that I will have a good day! I am driven by positivity! I have met incredible people along the journey and I am constantly learning. It is the best feeling!”

Before concluding the twenty-minute chit chat, I asked JP what he believes his strategy is for career success. “I aim to push my boundaries and am willing to take on new challenges which place me out of my comfort zone because there is a lesson to be learnt in each and every situation. Patience is key, and as in civil engineering, the foundation of the career path is extremely important. Staying true to the values and education I was fortunate to receive, I believe that there is always at least one way to achieve the collective goal which is to ensure guests’ satisfaction. My philosophy is that I need to enjoy what I do on a daily basis, to constantly grow from the experience and take on new opportunities.”