Executive Chef, Pullman Bucharest World Trade Centre (Romania)

Marian Oancea

Marian Oancea's story

Hospitality was not my first choice. In high school I loved sport, volleyball, from 10 years until I was about 18 and finish high-school and then I wanted to go to police academy. Three days before my physical assessment I broke my leg, a double fracture, and my doctor told me I would not be able to play sport again.

I was in hospital for three months and spent three at home, and when my leg was a bit better I asked myself what I could do with my life because I had never thought beyond police academy. I tried different jobs – computers, call centre, retail – but nothing suited me.

One summer, I worked as a waiter on the Black Sea and it was so busy that I would sometimes go into the kitchen to prepare the orders. That was how I realised I preferred to cook rather than serve.

I went to culinary college for eight months and when I was there, I tried to find a job but the first question was, do you have any experience? But I had none and it was hard. Now, I am longing for somebody young to ask to work in the kitchen but no one is interested – and I don’t need them to have experience, just someone who wants to learn the job.

I eventually found a job in a Lebanese restaurant, from there I went to the Crowne Plaza in Bucharest, one of the best hotels in Romania at the time, and after two years I started to work on ships. Then I worked in England at the Savile Court Hotel at Englefield near Ascot; it was a village and everyone knew each other. I loved working there and I am still in touch with my executive chef, who has since retired. That was where I started to learn what it means to be organised; if you are not disciplined, it’s like being at home, you start everything and finish nothing!

I was abroad for seven years before coming back to Romania. Since then I have been here at Pullman. I started as a sous chef in our restaurant and then I was promoted to executive chef; I love my job. Recently, I had some important guests in my restaurant and one of them said to me afterwards, ‘Chef, this was excellent, very good, I love your food’. It is the best feeling when people appreciate your work and you do good things for them but to achieve that, you have to be involved.

I have 24 people in my kitchen and I said to them, I know when I start my job and I never know when I finish my working hours but sometimes you must give more and when you do that, life gives more back. Hotel groups like Accor offer us opportunities to learn all the time, training on how to speak to guests, how to be aware, procedures, and we have a very good general manager who coordinates us all. This hotel is 30 years old and we are still in the top hotels in Western Europe.

In June, I will go to Tbilisi in Georgia and exchange experiences with that chef; it is nice to see people come here and learn new things from us too. For me, to be a Heartist® is to learn new things, to be motivated and to do a good job.

My proudest moment was when I became executive chef. The former executive chef left and I was sous chef so I replaced him for nine months. The hotel interviewed other chefs but they did not fit the bill. I participated in everything and at the end of the year, they offered me the job. That was a wonderful moment when people from the hotel appreciated my work and realised they did not need someone from outside. In addition, we choose an employee of the month and in April, one of my chefs was chosen – I am proud when others appreciate how my people work.

To young people in the industry, I say, do the job with passion; don’t put salary first or the number of hours you work. If you want to achieve your best every day, be proud when you go to work and work with passion. I have a young person here who has stayed with me six years; he is the only one who has stayed that long. He says he will not leave because he likes us. I have taught him a lot and mentored him, and I am proud of him; he loves what he does.

I had 30 kids in my kitchen recently from high school and I asked each of them, who would like to be a chef? None of them. I don’t understand it. It is a hard job but it is a job for the future; robots and AI will never replace us. It will never die. We are one of the best hotels in Bucharest – we have high standards, everything is sustainable – and the people, we have the best!

  • Marian Oancea
  • Executive Chef
  • Pullman Bucharest World Trade Centre (Romania)

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