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Friday, August 19, 2022


St. Thomas will be the site of much excitement in the hotel and restaurant sphere when professional training starts here this summer.
Richard Doumeng, prominent hotelier and president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association, said the association has contracted with the prestigious Johnson & Wales University to conduct eight-week courses in hospitality and hotel management.
"The students will be taken from our own hotels where they are already employed," Doumeng explained. "Johnson & Wales will be bringing its expertise to train the students in the skills they will need to advance in their careers."
The advanced management training will give the students "the tools they will need to reach their next level of promotion," Doumeng said, noting that "many, maybe a majority, of the hospitality field employees have only a high school education."
He said the Virgin Islands does not lack for local talent, just for the training of that talent.
Rooms for the hospitality courses have been donated by many island hotels, including Doumeng's own Bolongo Beach. Funding and endowments for the project are in the works.
The culinary aspect of Johnson & Wales training is the pet project and dream of E. W. Smith, the university's associate director of the office of university advancement.
Smith, a native St. Thomian — his father ran Smitty's Tours — has been on-island talking to members of the hotel association, University of the Virgin Islands officials and local restaurateurs about starting an intense culinary arts program.
Sandy Halliday of the Old Mill is anxious to see the program begin. He described it as "sensational – a great way to get our young people into the restaurant industry."
If Smith has his way, the culinary program will begin this fall. "St. Thomas has to nurture and protect its first industry – its only industry – tourism," he said.
Smith's commitment to the island and his enthusiasm are persuasive and infectious. Smith said local culinary star Isidro Wesselhoft of Charlotte Amalie High School is a "big supporter of the program."
Smith's dream is to see Virgin Islanders staffing local kitchens in their chefs' jackets and toques, proudly wielding their new skills.
Unlike the hospitality program, the culinary arts training is a nine-month course. Smith already has a state-of-the-art kitchen in place donated by a local restaurateur for classroom training. However, more talks with UVI President Orville Kean are needed before the program can begin.
Completion of the program will prepare students to be placed in a three-month practical training site followed by a job as a line cook or, after the on-the-job training, to allow them to enter a degree prgram at UVI as advanced standing candidates, Smith said.
Johnson & Wales, with its main campus in Rhode Island, has training programs in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Cancun, Mexico, and Brazil. It is the world's largest educator in the service industry.

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