"We wish an allergy not to be a problem for our customers"
Dounia Laghzioui began her professional career as a preschool teacher. However, she soon realised that she needed a much more dynamic environment than a classroom with babies. So it was that, at the age of 17, she went into a kitchen for a month in the summer, which she extended, the following season, with an internship in a restaurant kitchen in Son Bou. In the second season, however, she started from scratch at the Royal Son Bou Family Club. And where she will manage the hotel's kitchen this season.
How have you progressed in the kitchen at Royal Son Bou?
I started as an assistant, and little by little I have progressed in the same company. The experience I've been able to gain and the work that always allows me to be active, has helped me over the years. At the beginning of the season we are under stress, but it is a moment that I love, because I am a person who needs to be always on the move.
She went from studying to look after children to a kitchen where the little ones are also very important.
Obviously, being in a nursery has nothing to do with being in a hotel, even if it is in the kitchen. I love children, I always have. But, because of my attitude, I like being able to work in an environment like the kitchen at the Royal Son Bou much more. However, the contact with the children here is different, and I love it.
How do you approach the challenge of managing the kitchen team?
I will spend a bit more time in front of the computer than in front of the kitchen. There will be a lot more paper, numbers and organisation to make the practice run smoothly. Up to now it has been my field. Now I will be more involved in the theoretical part, which is just as important. The good thing, from my point of view, is that I have been through all the stages in the kitchen, so I know first-hand what the work of my colleagues is like.
Will there be anything new at the buffet this year?
I am very much in favour of greatly enhancing the part of the menu dedicated to meeting the needs of people, children and babies with allergies. Last season we had many cases of young children with allergies, and in a buffet they have few options. So I would like to be able to offer more variety to choose from. Up to now we made a lot of dish and puree on demand, but this summer we will offer more variety from the beginning for families who are on holiday and have no possibility to cook what they need, as they use do at home. My aim is to give the impression that, although we are a large hotel, we cover all needs without an allergy being a problem either in the kitchen or in the buffet.
Are new ways to be explored in the kitchen?
We also want to offer more vegan and vegetarian options. In the buffet we always have a variety of everything, but it is true that it is easier to find dishes that are not specifically designed for people who choose these types of options.
It must not be easy to offer so much variety in a single kitchen.
The good thing we have at Royal Son Bou is that we try to make the bulk of our dishes and meals as fresh as possible from the kitchen, even if they are specific for people with allergies or vegan and vegetarian options. It is true that it forces us to be much more careful, because allergies are a very serious issue. But so far, we have been able to cater for all the needs that have arisen. Any member of the family, whether allergic or not, must have options to choose from in our buffet. And that is what we want to achieve this season. In fact, when the family with special needs arrives at the hotel, they are interviewed so that we can listen to what they need, in cases where they warn us that there may be some difficulty. We always try to give them options and adapt to what they know.
Have there been any really special cases?
Last year we had the case of a little girl with a very high allergy to a shellfish that, just by smelling the smoke of that shellfish, could already have an important reaction. That's why, when they arrived with the family and explained the case to us, we were careful to sit them at a table away from the show-cooking so that the smoke didn't reach them, for example. These are situations that seem complicated, but that we always try to solve within the 900 customers that we usually have in the high season. The good thing about this is that we create relationships with these customers, to the point that a few weeks ago this same girl sent us a letter remembering a dessert we had prepared for her. The effort we make pays off when you see these gestures of gratitude.