Mum inspires chef

Sous chef Alvin Chand (left) and executive chef Lakepa (right). Picture: JOHN KAMEA

MANY find their parents fountainheads of their personal success and inspiration.

For Volivoli Beach Resort executive chef, Lakepa Setitaia, it was his late mum.

While growing up, observing his mother work as a waitress at an Asian restaurant along Cumming St in Suva influenced his career.

It also gave him enough motivation to weather the odds in life and rise to the top of his game.

“I clearly remember visiting her at her workplace and smelling food coming out from the kitchen,” Kepa, as he if known among work colleagues, said.

“The smell and sight of food instilled a passion in me. It made me want to be chef one day.”

Kepa asked his parents to put him through tertiary school but financial constraints got in the way.

He had to work at the airport for a few years before he could save enough money to pay for tertiary course fees.

After overcoming many hurdles and working in a number of hotels and restaurants over the past two decades, he is now the executive chef at Rakiraki’s Volivoli Beach Resort, where the kitchen boasts having a young team with more than ‘100 years’ of work experience.

The former Nabua Secondary School student’s philosophy in the kitchen is “team work with passion”.

“You must first have the passion in your heart before whatever you cook becomes wow factor. This is what I always remind my team,” Kepa said.

“I also tell them to work like a family unit. If we have passion and work as a unit, we will always cook the best and our guests will always be happy.”

The 47-year-old bachelor, who continues to support his three younger brothers, said team work also meant helping each other when the need arose.

“If there is no steward, I will mop the floor and wash the dishes. I tell my team we are the Volivoli Beach Resort family.

“Team unity and bonding are important values to uphold in that family.”

Kepa said the secret to having a world class menu with a line of dishes that tastes out-of-Earth was having healthy, fresh and organic food to work with.

“We are lucky we have that in Rakiraki. We handpick our fruits, vegetables and other crops from the market daily except Sundays. This ensures that we always provide the most flavourful, freshest and healthiest meals for guests.”

For the future, Kepa plans to complete a Train-the-Trainer course.

A certificate will enable him to carry out in-house training at work in an effort to upskill those in the kitchen who have the drive but cannot afford to go back to study.

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