Michael Tjong recently retired at age 75 from the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney after 10 years of employment, and he loved his job so much, he kept working despite the fact he could have retired a long time ago. Working in the hotel industry is a great working environment that is often overlooked, but it’s clear that it’s an excellent choice. Michael had retired (the first time!), until the General Manager asked him to stay on; so he did. Here is Michael’s story:
Michael, explain to me about your time at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney over
the years and how you came into this role?
“I have been a kitchen steward here for over ten years, and I came into this role after an agency sent me here for some casual work. Six months later, I became a full time worker at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney.”
What does a typical day involve for you in your role in the hotel?
“I am a kitchen steward, so my role is basically a mix of dishwashing, cleaning, sanitising and preparing the kitchen area and garbage disposal. A typical day depends on the shift worked. In the early days of my time here, I worked night shifts for four years, and I would finish work at midnight. At this point, I switched to afternoon shifts. So the day could involve end of day procedures and cleaning, or it could be working frantically washing plates and equipment for the smooth running of banquets and events. If I work quickly to run dishes, cups, and glasses with a sense of urgency, it means that I can provide good service, and that’s when I know I’ve done my job.”
What has been the most memorable time during your time at Radisson Blu?
“The best memory I have is being part of a good, happy team. One especially memorable day was after four years, I was known as the ‘king of retirement’, as I had written a resignation letter to Chef. He asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to retire?’. Even the General Manager came up to my working station and said, ‘You’re too young to resign!’. At that point, I thought I had done enough to retire. But after the encouragement to keep working, I withdrew my resignation letter the next day.
“I took this moment as a boost of encouragement, because if the GM comes up to you asking if you’re sure about leaving, it is very flattering. I believe if you’re still able to do the job, you can keep working [despite age].”
How many dishes have you washed during your time here?
“That’s uncountable! Thousands? I just kept washing dishes, I never counted how many I did, I just kept washing until I had fulfilled my duties. If I cleaned 60 an hour though, that would equate to 2,504,640 dishes in ten years!”
What do you love the most about working in hospitality?
“I get to deal with different people every day, and the young people take me back to my young days! I find the people I work with have such positive attitudes and a willingness to constantly improve. They are responsible and I think I can learn a lot from them too.”
Tell us about the second time you retired.
“I finally decided to retire after ten years for health reasons. I think the time was right, and I had just taken my long service leave. I had reduced the days I worked towards the end down to 2 days per week, it was just time to retire. I love my spare time and I can’t wait to go on more trips. My favourite place to visit is the Central Coast, and sightseeing around Sydney. I also look forward to doing more study and spend more time gardening!”
What is your favourite thing to do around Sydney?
“I love getting the ferry from Circular Quay to Parramatta. It is a nice scenic ride down the Parramatta River. I also love getting the train up to Wyong and exploring new areas.”
How would you describe working in a role where you are unseen by front of house, yet can make such a difference to the service?
“We are unseen, but we are working… if the customer is happy, it means the service is good. It means the team did a good job and if the customer complains, then I feel guilty. When something goes wrong, they won’t eat, so it’s important in the hotel, that all teams work as one. We are one team. If we have good cooperation, we get the work done.”
Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about working in hospitality and/or hotels?
“Always abide by standard operating procedures and rules in the workplace, as you could be the root of an issue if you don’t do your job properly. When you follow procedures, you’re keeping systems in place!
“When you’re working in the kitchen, a clean area and a safe environment is so important, as is proper hygiene and cleanliness of equipment. To serve a customer at the utmost highest quality, standard operating procedures must be followed strictly, so I think you can learn a lot about how to be responsible in the workplace.”
Michael in the kitchen with fellow Food & Beverage staff.
By Emma H