Lloyd Livingstone-Blevins’ nomadic childhood as the son of mining executive prepared him for a career in the hospitality industry, and the 33-year-old has already worked in three of South Africa’s major cities.
For the past three years he has held the role of Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at Sun International’s The Maslow, Sandton in Johannesburg.
“I love cooking, I’ve been in the kitchen since I was three, helping my mother, and initially thought I wanted to be a chef,” Livingstone-Blevins said. He studied hospitality management at the University of Johannesburg, before heading to the Cape to do his internship. “I then tried my hand at front office, but found that monotonous and moved over to the restaurant industry.”
What he found there was long hours, but enough excitement to make him fall in love with food and beverage management. “I was the restaurant manager at Forrester’s Arms for 18 months, and there I learnt the critical skills on how to plan and manage an exceptionally busy operation, doing everything from stock takes to handling big events.”
In 2013, Livingstone-Blevins returned to Johannesburg and began what would be his first foray at Sandton’s The Maslow, as bar manager. “I was promoted to beverage manager a year later, an ideal role for someone like myself who is passionate about fine wine and spirits.” He has completed his Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level two.
In 2017, the opportunity arose for Livingstone-Blevins to assist Time Square Casino in Pretoria as part of the opening team responsible for four restaurants including Guy Fieri Kitchen and Bar restaurant. “It was stressful but really exciting working with Fieri’s team who came from the United States to train us on their standards. I opened the Maslow Time Square Hotel’s F&B operations before later re-joining The Maslow as assistant F&B manager in 2019.”
As The Maslow has always focused on meetings, seminars and conferences, Covid-19 has had a big impact on the hotel’s business. “I have been focused on finding other ways of getting revenue into the F&B department, ideas and events which create hype and excitement.” The Maslow’s Veuve Cliquot picnics, held on the hotel’s beautiful lawns in an idyllic garden setting, have been exceptionally popular. “We also focus on big calendar days such as Father’s Day, where we are doing a braai-style buffet with a complimentary beer for dad on arrival.”
Livingstone-Blevins’ workday starts at 6h15 with emails, before heading for the Lacuna Bistro to ensure that breakfast is running smoothly, from both a staff and guest perspective.
“With Covid-19 there are many protocols which need to be followed, so I check that these are being done. Once happy, I check the bar area and that the meeting spaces are set up to spec, banqueting is on track and everyone is ready for their clients.” He oversees 55 staff members with five direct reports. “I have lots of meetings throughout the day, but chatting to guests and finding out how their stay is going is also important to pick up potential problems.” Depending on if there is a big event happening, Livingstone-Blevins leaves between 16h00 and 18h00.
“At the moment, people are looking for value for money – they don’t mind spending money but they want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth. Move aside bits of garnish and give people a decent plate of food.” Livingstone-Blevins works closely with Omar Menhouk, the Hotel’s Executive Chef. “Since joining The Maslow late last year, Omar has introduced some old-school changes and new suppliers which has influenced the quality of food, and the meals – especially our buffet breakfast at the Lacuna Bistro – are now truly exceptional.”
As someone who does plenty of his own cooking, Livingstone-Blevins should know a good plate of food. “I’m not a fancy food person, I want something delicious and wholesome which is properly cooked. It must be the best burger or the best pizza, paired with a good bottle of red.”
To counterbalance the long working hours and good food, Livingstone-Blevins also enjoys running in his spare time.