The beauty of island life can be best seen and experienced over the weekends. After a day of fun in the sun, friends and family gather together over the fire where scrumptious chunks of meat and fish are grilling away, filling the aura with smokey goodness. Uwais Fayaz would often be found running the barbeque as he naturally leads the ‘kitchen team’. He was famed for knowing his way around the grill and was the first choice among his friends when it came to whipping up good food.
Uwais had grown fond of cooking over the years watching his mother skillfully move around the kitchen while she prepares food for the whole family. As much as he thought he was helping her back in the days, it actually turns out that he had a million questions about what, why and how she was doing everything the way she was.
One can safely say that watching cooking shows was one of Uwais’ most favorite hobbies growing up. It further aroused his curiosity about what goes on in a professional kitchen and the minds of great chefs. The way participants played around with different ingredients and created never-before-seen dishes captivated Uwais’ young imagination.
At one point during his high school years, Uwais was seriously considering taking up Culinary Arts and studying for a degree in the subject. However, it was not a feasible choice for him or the family at the time. Hence, he shelved the idea and looked for an internship opportunity at a resort instead, hoping to get hands-on experience in the Maldives’ hospitality industry.
The second youngest of 4 children, Uwais grew up in his homeland of Hithadhoo in Addu City. His father and elder brothers already worked in resorts, so he had the family’s full support when he landed an internship program at Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives in the break after 11th grade.
Uwais trained in the front office at the resort and was excited to interact with guests from all around the world. The internship allowed him to horn his people skills and grow an interest in the cultural diversity among guests and employees on a resort island.
By the time he returned back home to complete the rest of high school, he was comfortable with the idea of working in a frontline resort team. At the same time, his mind also wandered about the opportunities in the culinary field where his heart was set on.
The moment of decision came for Uwais in his graduation ceremony. Hussain Afeef, a well-known HR professional from the Maldivian hospitality industry, was the Guest of Honour at the ceremony. He spoke about pursuing a career in the country’s biggest industry. In his speech, Afeef highlighted the taboo around resort life in the community and how untrue it will prove to be once you embrace the golden chance of working in any one of the well-established world-class resorts in the idyllic destination.
Afeef went on to a glimpse of the exposure one receives from the industry and the immense potential of taking your career global by simply being a part of it. To quote Uwais, ‘It was one of the best speeches I have ever heard in my life!’. Being an open-minded teen, he was immediately motivated to find a way to pave his own way forward.
Uwais spent a few months doing odd jobs around the island before he came across the news of apprenticeship openings in One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives. The program was a highly esteemed offer and Uwais knew that being selected would be no less than a prestige for him. That is why he was humbly surprised when his application came through from over 70 others.
The apprenticeship program was the stepping stone in Uwais’ career as a Chef. For the first six months, participants were given the opportunity to work in every department of the island and by the end of it, they got to specialize in a department of their own choosing for the next chapter.
Undoubtedly, Uwais picked the kitchen but it was not a choice according to the program guidelines. In his case, Uwais made a great exception as his passion and discipline in the culinary department spoke for itself and for the first time, the apprentice program allowed a participant to specialize in the kitchen.
Boy, it was no cake walk! Uwais soon realized that all the drama in cooking shows around the kitchen; the yelling, the heat, and rush were all real. Uwais was not ready for any of it, and never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined surviving the experience. Despite the many doubts he had in himself and his choice at times, he credits what he has become today to all the challenges he faced then. It built his character and taught and him the value of becoming a professional, passionate chef.
Today, being part of a kitchen team comes easy to him only because he never gave up on the hard days. It could get unexpectedly busy and become a crazy mayhem while taking every guest’s request, but at the end of the day, that is where the beauty of it lies.
Uwais graduated as an apprentice of class of 2018 specialized in the kitchen of the culinary department. His love for playing around with ingredients naiver waivered for a second. Reethi Rah recognized Uwais’ dedication to the culinary arts and invited him to join the resort’s master culinary brigade as a Chef. At the budding age of 21 today, Uwais is the youngest and the only Maldivian chef working in a guest-front outlet in One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives.