His passion to continuously learn and explore his craft has resulted in an impressive career spanning from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia with previous work experiences that include working for 5-star hotels from the Radisson Hotel group.
In a candid talk with IGIHE, Chef Hassan Massood discussed his wide-ranging experience, creative flair and ardent passion for the culinary arts that made him the ideal chef to oversee and maintain the culinary legacy of the award-winning Radisson Blu Kigali.
IGIHE: Would you share your journey with us?
Hassan Masood: I started my career at 17 years old, while I was pursuing my studies in college. I started working as a steward in a luxury hotel because in Mauritius when you don’t have a background in hospitality, you have to start from scratch.
I was there for a period of 6 months where I gained experience from great people. In that period, I worked very hard as the hotel had just opened and I eventually got promoted to the ’Cuisine principale’. I was juggling between stewarding and helping Chefs because sometimes, the chefs were absent or sick and I was the replacement.
I was so keen on learning that I did overnight shifts after school. I worked for 18 hours every day, without a day off. This experience taught me hard work, perseverance and turned me into a self-motivated person.
What was the turning point in your career?
In 2000, I was an employee of the year in the hotel. I was offered a ticket to go to one of the islands next to Mauritius. It was a one-weekend stay but since I wanted to learn more about hospitality, I refused it and asked that it be converted into a study trip to Italy. I met one lady Chef who trained me. She is one of the people who molded me to become who I am today.
Once I finished my training in Italy, I moved to Dubai. I was 22 years old at the time. That was when I started participating in competitions. One time I was invited to the competition but I didn’t feel ready. My Chef told me he trusted me. I went to the competition that day and won a gold medal. This was very meaningful for someone like me who had just started a career in hospitality.
In 2012, I won the fourth prize for the Young Leader of the Year Award at Radisson. I was 34 years old. In 2013, I was shortlisted for the youngest Executive Chef in the Middle East. I also participated in The Black Box Cooking Competition that challenges students to come up with a salad and entree using surprise ingredients. I won the Art of Hospitality Award in Italy as well.
I have had the privilege to work with famous chefs from around the world and gained insights from them but at the end of the day, it all depends on one’s hard work and passion to make it in the hospitality industry. After my journey in Mauritius, Italy, and Mauritius, I traveled to the UK, rebranding hotels and finally moved back to Mauritius where I helped rebrand two hotels. I have also worked in hotels in Dubai, France, Russia, China, United Kingdom to mention a few.
As a chef, you have to make sure that everywhere you go, you go as a leader and a winner, and that is what made me the person I am today.
When did you start working at Radisson?
I started at Radisson in February 2016. I came here four months before Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre opened in Kigali just so I could study the environment so that by the time the hotel opened, everything would be impeccable. We opened just in time for the 27th African Union (AU) Summit where we hosted between 6000 and 7000 people. We gained a lot of experience from that.
What has been the secret to your success?
Working with people from different nationalities and traveling to many countries shaped me into the person I am today. A lot of people have helped me grow and I can say that success is a team effort.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
My style of cooking is really just a mix of everything. Mauritius is rich in cosmopolitan cuisine, being an amalgam of knowledge from Indian, European, Asian and Arabic cuisines and this helps me to keep up with the latest trends, wherever I am.
You’ve been all over the world, working with various great culinary Chefs. Which one, in particular, inspired you?
It is hard to only name one because I have learned something new from every Chef I met and worked with. [He chuckles] But I can name Fabio De poli - the first Chef who took me out of Mauritius, and Marco Aveta among others.
What sparks-up your day at Radisson Hotel Kigali?
The team of people I work with on a daily basis, who contribute to Radisson Kigali being a top-notch destination in Rwanda. I also like the ingredients that we find in Rwanda that helps us diversify our cuisine.
Which special offers is the Radisson Hotel Kigali offering for Valentine’s day?
Filini Italian Restaurant: set-menu + glass of wine and live band entertainment for 40,000 RWF
Larder all-day-dining: Lavish buffet spread for 30,000 RWF
Amani Spa: Couples Aromatherapy massage + dinner for two at Filini Italian restaurant for 120,00 RWF only (offer valid for the full month of February)