Hospitality veteran Rey Abelardo snatches up Chief Steward of the Year title

Dubbed ‘The Godfather of Stewarding’, Abelardo has more than 38 years of industry experience
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Rey Abelardo at Caterer ME awards 2018 held at Waldorf Astoria Tha Palm.
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Rey Abelardo at Caterer ME awards 2018 held at Waldorf Astoria Tha Palm.

Dubbed ‘The Godfather of Stewarding’, Rey Abelardo from Madinat Jumeirah was awarded the ‘Chief Steward of the Year’ title during the Caterer Middle East Awards 2018.

The event took place on Wednesday, May 9 at the Waldorf Astoria, Dubai Palm Jumeirah and the category, which comprised six nominees, was presented to Abelardo by Gavin Dodd, managing director from A. Ronai. Joseph Dela Rama Tan from Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort walked away with the ‘highly commended’ title for the category.

Abelardo has worked across the world, and joined his current company nearly a decade ago. Besides keeping a gargantuan operation running smoothly, Abelardo has also created a knowledge-sharing method called ‘Resort Stewarding Standard’ for everyone in the stewarding department.

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In the standard, all the activities and reports pertaining to stewarding within the resort such as loss and breakage reports, operating equipment inventory reports, recycling and waste management data such as the resort’s bottle collection records, waste composting machine records and process mapping and the staff cafeteria’s food waste management reports can be found.

Abelardo told Caterer Middle East that wanting to share his knowledge with aspiring stewards is what motivated him to put the standard together. “Since I started my job in 1977 as a steward, I just wanted to be the manager of the department. And also, I wanted to share what I know. It is good to teach whatever you know to everybody and I give them a chance to learn whatever they need,” he explained.

Madinat Jumeirah executive chef Hans Lentz credited Abelardo for providing the support he needs to perform his job: “Rey is one of those leaders and rare people where I just wish I could copy and paste him across the organisation. He belongs to that gold standard of the very best example, which anyone who gets to work with him wishes that everyone else is just like him. When you meet him for the first time, Rey has that gift for making you feel very welcome and that usually, in my experience, is quite rare to find in hotels where people have worked a very long time. He gives you immediately a platform where, as an executive chef, you can perform to your very best because you get all the legacy knowledge and support from him. He has given me all what I need to know about stewarding here at the resort.”

One of his mentees, Rajesh Sankaran, Jumeirah Hospitality and Conference & Events back-of-house manager concurred: “I started my career in Jumeirah as a steward and where I am now in my career is because of Rey. I got my guidance, education, training, all this I got from him. He is my mentor.”

Sankaran added: “Another thing is when you look at his personality, he is very calm and even-tempered. Even colleagues who are young, still immature and occasionally prone to negative outbursts, are able to absorb this positive demeanour, and gradually change. I was very young and often had a negative attitude when I first joined the company. After many years of working together with Rey, I also started to follow his example. This I can tell you from the bottom of my heart.”

For aspiring stewards in the industry, Abelardo highlights the key traits for success is to "be flexible, never say no and to think everything is possible".

Besides putting together a guide, Abelardo has also developed a food health and safety management training programme for Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management which positively impacts the UAE hospitality industry and other sectors such as the healthcare industry, with Emirates Academy clients like the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi.

When asked about what the future holds in terms of his career, the industry veteran told Caterer Middle East that after a long and successful career in hospitality, after putting in a few more years, he’s looking to retire and spend more time with his family.

This year's awards were supported by: platinum sponsor Emaar Hospitality Group; category sponsors A.Ronai, A&T Group Interiors, Bragard, Precision Refrigeration and TSSC, Pulsar Foodstuff, 1765 Gemini; dessert sponsors EMF, Cacao Barry, Callebaut; photobooth sponsor Mintano by Sketches; social media partner Tint; water sponsor Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino; and beverage sponsors MMI, Campari, Fever Tree, and Skyy Vodka.

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