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Nurturing change in the Mongolian food service industry

By MICHELLE BOROK

On March 14 and 15, Junior Chamber International (JCI) Mongolia members gathered in Darkhan-Uul for JCI Mongolia’s 13th Presidential Academy, an annual conference intensely focused on leadership to develop the nation’s movers and shakers. One of those members was CEO of Syracusae, LLC, known best for the popular UB restaurants Rosewood Coffeehouse and Rosewood Kitchen and Enoteca (with a third location in the works), B.Enkhzaya.
She extended her time in Darkhan for the JCI gathering to continue the weekend’s theme of creating positive change in the world around her and the industry she has helped to transform in only a few short years. Following the Presidential Academy, she was joined by her partner, Chef Cliffe Arrand, and they dropped in at Darkhan’s state-run Vocational Education Training Center to spend time with the students enrolled in programs focused on the service sector.
Not long after Forbes Mongolia named her one of the country’s 25 most influential women in business, Forbes selected B.Enkhzaya as one the nation’s top “30 Under 30″ in business. She was also featured in Cosmopolitan Mongolia just before the new year. Beyond the glossy magazine pages, her customers know her well from making rounds in the dining room during a busy lunch hour or dinner service at her restaurants, making sure tables are happy, taken care of, and that the front of the house is running as smoothly as Chef Arrand’s kitchen.
Enkhzaya has been steadily gaining recognition for her achievements as a business leader in Ulaanbaatar, but the praise she has received can also be credited to her work ethic, creative vision, standards for service, and perhaps most importantly to her, the work she does outside of her restaurants as a mentor.
Her public service work began early, when she was still in high school in the U.S., as a Kiwanis Club president, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, and volunteering in a Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) animal shelter. Her work now is focused on membership in organizations like JCI, and in mentoring young people through Youth Business International, guiding the next generation of business leaders – not much younger than Enkhzaya – towards building sustainable businesses in Mongolia.
She has been an active member of JCI since 2013. On her JCI visit to Darkhan, she said, “The JCI Presidential Academy is a 48 hour intensive leadership conference held every year and gives me the chance to learn and grow as a leader.” Members of the academy from Ulaanbaatar were paired with members from Darkhan. Enkhzaya’s partner for the weekend was a young man working in management at Darkhan’s railway station.

Prior to starting her trip with JCI, she made arrangements to finish the weekend visit to Darkhan with a day spent at the province’s Vocational Education Training Center. The school is publicly funded and offers two to three year programs designed to provide young people with skills for stable employment. The students range in age, from 15 to 19, and short-term career development programs are also available for adult students.
Students at the school can choose from programs like food service, hairdressing, welding, tiling, brick laying, auto repair, plumbing, wood working, and electrical wiring and repair. Upon successful completion of their programs, students receive a high school equivalency diploma and professional certification.
The school opened in 1984 and has around 800 students enrolled this year. The school is a popular and practical option for many students from the surrounding countryside, ger areas, and those living in local orphanages.
The government’s monthly 70,000 MNT stipend for students covers the cost of tuition, and also covers dormitory housing for 150 students, but not much more. Books, supplies, equipment for training, staff and teacher salaries, and food costs are covered sparingly by the state budget. Some materials have been donated to the school over the years in foreign cooperation projects, and a group of women volunteers from Ulaanbaatar visited in early March to donate supplies for the school’s hairdressing program, but the majority of classrooms and training workshops are lacking in supplies and equipment to be shared by classes of 30. Limited resources also mean limited exploration in industry innovations.

Enkhzaya began the day in the school’s chilly lecture hall. Her public speaking style is calm, assured, clear and soft-spoken, and she warmed up the audience of 85 students from the food service and hairdressing program – plus their program’s directors, with her sincerity, talking about the most critical points in the path to success in her career. She shared what drives her and Chef Arrand, personally and professionally.
Reflecting on her visit, Enkzaya told The UB Post, “I was blown away by the enthusiasm and eagerness to learn coming from the students. My intent was not to shower them with technical knowledge or know-how, but rather to inspire them with my story of growth. My goal for the visit was to stoke the fires of passion within the students and evoke a feeling of pride for their profession. If even one child sees their service job as a profession and makes it their hobby, so that it doesn’t feel like work but rather like fun, I have accomplished my goal.”
Following her presentation, Enkhzaya translated a cooking demonstration given by Cliffe Arrand, introduced to the aspiring young chefs as he is addressed by staff in the Rosewood restaurants, as “Chef Cliffe”.
Arrand had prepared a demonstration in preparing a simple but vibrant salad, and a more refined yet accessible chicken dish than is usually offered in Western cooking courses in Mongolia. He chose fresh ingredients for the salad that were new to many, if not all, of the students in attendance, but it opened them up to a new way of thinking about fresh salads and experimenting with new flavors.
His demonstration of the chicken dish wasn’t nearly as foreign, but Arrand showed the students standard Western techniques in the use and handling of ingredients, and how a chef might think differently about their tools and raw materials.
The students were transfixed, eyes darting back and forth from the prep table Arrand worked at to Enkhzaya, who stood beside him describing every step of his process and translating Chef Cliffe’s insight from decades of professional experience.
Like the youngest of the students he shared his skill and food wisdom with that afternoon, Arrand began his entry into the restaurant business at a very early age. His excitement about his profession and his sincere desire to share what he had learned over time made the language barrier in the food service classroom and kitchens obsolete. It was a rare and valuable experience for everyone involved.
Enkhzaya and Cliffe are continuing their work with public and private Mongolian vocational education programs in Ulaanbaatar, with plans to revisit Darkhan, and possibly spreading their passion and knowledge to other provinces.
The power couple are planning to travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil, this summer for the WorldSkills competition, accompanying Mongolian vocational education students competing in a number of different categories and representing the best of the new generation of Mongolia’s industry professionals.
On his experience with the students of Darkhan’s Vocational Education Training Center, Arrand said, “I feel that every chef and hospitality professional has had a great mentor in their past. I hope that we can inspire and share our knowledge with the next generation of Mongolian hospitality professionals. Being able to meet such a great group of kids, and sharing the passion and inspiration that the great chefs I have worked for have taught me is rewarding and fulfilling, and I hope that one day we will be able to help build a better Mongolian industry, one kid at a time.”

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=13866

Posted by on Mar 25 2015. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Nurturing change in the Mongolian food service industry”

  1. Mongolian food service industry has improved a lot, I am glad to see that student in Mongol can find a better studying environment.

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