GM brings cooking, managing skills to PHBy Corrie Salientes-Narisma
Philippine Daily Inquirer
At age 8, W. Scott Sibley started to show his passion for cooking. While kids his age were out playing, he was already spending much of his time dabbling and experimenting in the kitchen.
Sibley—a multi-awarded chef, “cooking tour book” author and Marriott Manila general manager—remembers making his very first special meal at that age, Eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce, which was a breakfast-in-bed treat for his mom on Mother’s Day.
But the real coming out event happened a few years after when, at 14, Sibley got the chance to get people outside his family taste his cooking.
“My parents had this ‘gourmet’ group composed of six couples. They took turns in hosting their monthly dinner, with the host preparing the main course while other members contributing the rest, such as starters and desserts,” Sibley recalls.
When his parents’ turn came, however, Sibley took it upon himself to do all the cooking. He prepared the full course—from starters to desserts. That was the start of his career in the kitchen. From that evening on, his parents’ friends started ordering food from him, allowing Sibley to open a small catering business.
Sibley pursued his passion and took up hotel apprenticeship at the Culinary Garden & Inn in the Untied States.
His culinary skills opened a lot of doors for young Sibley, but he chose to be part of the Marriott Group—an association that has lasted 27 years and counting.
His stint at Marriott has so far taken Sibley, who was born and raised in the United States, to 13 different Marriott properties around the world.
In the US, he was initially assigned as chef in Marriott California and Florida, and later to Hawaii and Guam. He later got assigned to Marriott properties in the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and the Philippines.
Sibley’s first 12 years with Marriott were spent in the kitchen, mainly as executive chef. His exemplary culinary skills did not go unnoticed. Sibley won several awards, including the Executive Chef of the Year in 1990 given by Marriott International, and the Mustang Award.
His exposure to both western and eastern cuisine explains Sibley’s preference for fusion, especially the combination of western dishes and Asian produce and flavors. These specialties of his won for the chef and the hotel several awards. Some of his favorite recipes are in his book, “Tour Southeast Asia with Scott.”
Although cooking is, no doubt, his passion, destiny apparently had greater plans for Sibley.
After 12 years in the kitchen, he was made F&B (food and beverage) manager and, shortly after that, was chosen to head Renaissance Dubai Hotel—one of the three brands of the Marriott group—jumpstarting his dynamic career in hotel management.
He stayed in Dubai for two years before he became general manager of Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Center in Canada.
This was followed by a stint in Renaissance Hotel Korea, which was especially memorable to him not only because of the outstanding sales achieved by the hotel during his term, but also because it was there that he met his future wife, a Filipina.
Guam Marriott Hotel and Spa came next. In January this year, Marriott Manila became Sibley’s base.
His term in Guam prepared Sibley for his Manila assignment. In Guam, where 98 percent of his associates were Filipinos, he came to learn more about the talents and skills of Filipinos in the hospitality and service-oriented businesses.
“I think Filipinos, especially in the hospitality business, are among the best in the world. The only other country that may come close is Thailand. Filipinos were born very friendly and warm. They are very natural in the hospitality and service business,” he says.
Running an entire hotel, he says, is not much different from running a kitchen, it is just that the scope of the work is wider and the responsibility is bigger.
The biggest challenge for him as general manager is to fill the hotel with guests and make sure they are satisfied.
“But it is no bigger than the challenges faced by the chef to make good food for like 400 people for breakfast, another 300 for lunch, and maybe a thousand or so for dinner and for banquet,” he says.
As a chef, Sibley refuses to be typecast with those who appear in reality shows on television. In his kitchen, he says, there is no shouting, cursing and moments when he loses his temper.
“Our rule is, three strikes and you are out. There’s no reason for me to get upset and yell at them,” he says, adding that he applies the same rule in running an entire hotel.
The key to a successful organization, whether it is the entire hotel or the kitchen, is communication, Sibley says.
“In the kitchens I worked in, I regularly sit down with the staff, talk to them about our concerns and brainstorm with them, especially when trying to come up with innovative dishes,” Sibley explains.
As a hotel GM, he says he is a hands-on manager, but not a micro manager who breaths down the neck of everyone all the time.
“I start work between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and get to a meeting with 20 or so managers for reports on what transpired the day before, and plans for the day [ahead]. This is followed by a meeting with senior managers for strategy and target setting. When all these are set, the staff takes care of the execution,” he says.
One thing he likes about his current post is that he has full control of everything in the hotel, especially the kitchen.
“While before, as the executive chef, I was always in the back and I didn’t know how things are being executed. Now I see everything … how the food is served and how things are done,” he says.
Sibley wants to make his mark on Marriott Manila by leading the hotel in getting the highest guest satisfaction score among the Marriott chain of hotels at least in Asia this year.
“We now have a guest satisfaction score of 83 percent. My goal is to achieve a rating of 90 percent this year, which will already put us well at the top,” he says.
“We have great people who are talented and unbelievably friendly. I do not see any reason why we can’t get there. We need only a bit of fine-tuning and make sure that we are reaching all our customers at the right touch points.”
Sibley is upbeat on the prospects of Marriott Manila and the local tourism industry.
“Thailand and Vietnam had their time, I believe this is the decade for the Philippines. The country had been getting a bad rap because of what international TV programs were showing. However, I think people are starting to realize that the Philippines is no different from New York City or it is even better here. In Jersey or somewhere else, you go to the wrong streets, you are going to get killed,” he said, adding that here, you only get your pocket picked.
Barely five months in Marriott Manila, Sibley is already deep into the hotel’s aggressive expansion efforts.
The hotel has just acquired a property beside it for expansion, which will involve the construction of a 10-story building that will make available another 180 or more hotel rooms beginning early next year.
Despite all the work, meetings and pressures inherent in his hotel job, Sibley still finds time to do what he loves doing most, cooking. He does cook on weekends for his wife and children, and sometimes for friends.
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