Heather Hinds working on the grill at The Club Barbados Resort and Spa on Friday. (Picture by Sandy Pitt.)
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EVERY DAY IS an opportunity to give your very best. And that’s exactly what Heather Hinds strives to do.
Before sunrise every morning, the 56-year-old cook sets out to work at The Club Barbados Resort and Spa with the hope of making others feel special, one meal at a time.
That’s because she believes in pouring every ounce of effort into her work. In fact, she has not missed a day of work in the last 30 years.
Her hard work and dedication did not slip the gaze of the hotel’s management, who nominated her for employee of the year in a competition organised by the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA).
It came as no surprise to them when she captured the BHTA’s Tourism Champion: Outstanding Hotel Employee award, which is the highest industry recognition award for hotel employee performance and contribution towards community tourism.
When the SUNDAY SUN visited Hinds at the Holetown, St James hotel, the ever-smiling awardee sported an apron with the words Heather Queen Of The Kitchen, which was a gift from a visitor.
Still revelling in her achievement, she shared the recipe to her success and outstanding work ethic.
“I’ve always prayed to God for health and strength and my prayers were answered. I really enjoy interacting with the guests and seeing them come back. It’s all about the guests. I like what I do so I just do it to the best of my ability,” she said.
The enthusiastic cook, who has been working at the property since 1990, when it was a Divi hotel, has become known as “the queen of the grill’ among guests and co-workers alike. She said every plate, whether it’s an omelette, pancake, burger or grilled fish, was made with love and served with a big smile.
Although she may not remember the names of all the guests, Hinds said she had created a special relationship with many of them. She noted that she often received invitations to Canada, the United States and Europe, and kept in close contact with visitors via emails, WhatsApp and calls.
General manager of the hotel, Andrew Zephirin, said that Hinds’ hospitality left guests with a unique experience. He added that Hinds, a symbol of the company’s standard of service, had a special way of making vacationers feel comfortable, noting that her willingness to go above and beyond her duties even led to her being known as “Miss Some of Everything”, which was inscribed on her name tag.
He said that she got the name when he found out she had been helping repeat guests book their next reservation at the hotel.
“She is a stalwart. The Government is pushing community tourism, which is great. They are promoting the idea that Barbados is more than hotels, more than good restaurants and are trying to get tourists out into the community. She is an advocate of community tourism,” he said.
Hinds described herself as a “people’s person” but she can also be considered an ambassador for Barbados because she takes visitors to places of interest and events like Q In The Community.
She said that she entertained visitors and locals at her home during Crop Over. On one occasion, she was filmed in her kitchen preparing cou cou, fried dolphin (mahi mahi), pickled cucumber and lemonade by a food blogger.
Reviews on TripAdvisor, where her name is mentioned at least 100 times in the comments, serve as a testimony to her impact on others. Her culinary skills and hospitality was praised and highlighted in comments like: “Heather always greeted us with a huge smile; she is so lovely, I already miss her”; “The fresh fish is definitely the best food in the house expertly made by Heather” and “Heather cooked perfect pancakes and eggs”.
Restaurant manager of the Sunset Kitchen, Sophya Ifill, said she was impressed by Hinds’ commitment to the job and admired the fact that she was always helpful.
“I’ve known Heather for over 30 years and she has always been very serious about her job. She loves what she does and the guests love her.
“The guests are consistent with what they say about Heather; it’s all positive. It’s all true because I see the same thing. She’s always smiling, always puts the guests first and always saying, ‘I just want to please my guests’ and she demonstrates that every day,” Ifill said.
Even though Hinds feels at home in front of the grill, she did not enter the hotel industry as a cook. After she finished school at Ellerslie Secondary, she learned needlework but did not like it very much. She then got her first job at Zephirin’s Bakery. She also worked at Yonkers gas station and various hotels and guests houses.
Started as dishwasher
She started at her current property as a dishwasher. One day, she said, she was asked to fill in for a cook who called in sick and her life changed forever. Her childhood dream of becoming a cook came true.
The outstanding employee said she was very shy as a child, but was forced to become bolder and more independent as a teenager when she faced one of her biggest hardships.
“My mum died when I was young – I was 14. It was a Sunday. I went to the hospital with my family to visit her. Then when we returned home, my dad said they called and said she made a turn for the worse.
“It was hard. When your mum passes, it’s like you lose everything. So I had to fight for everything and become a woman but I always had my head on and knew what I wanted. She always used to tell me, ‘When you do your best, angels can’t do any more’. I had to find a way to carry on,” she said.
Hinds said she wiped the tears from her face and kept her mother’s words of wisdom close to her heart. She gave birth to her daughter, Ronnetta Francis, by age 20 and was given even more incentive to be a strong, successful woman.
The veteran in the hotel industry said she learned the value of hard work while growing up in Black Rock, St Michael, where she lived with parents Eric and Myra Cumberbatch and six siblings.
She remembered having to tend to her father’s livestock on mornings before school.
It was also in her mother’s kitchen that her interest in cooking blossomed. She recalled that on many occasions she would help her mother with the cooking. She said she was inspired by her mother, who also baked and sold bread, and her late brother, chef Michael Cumberbatch, who received many awards for his culinary skills.
Hinds said that God had been her source of strength and motivation and that she owed her Outstanding Hotel Employee award to Him. (LT)