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VIDEO - A Sweet Treat

Friday, December 01, 2017

The dining table was beautifully adorned with white flower bouquets nestled amongst fitting “Nestl é blue” accents that sat atop the long black dining table of the new Nestl é Ferry Pen Headquarters.

Guests of honour were four students of the St Francis Primary and four of the St Jude's Primary schools. Each identified and sat by their respective seating place cards marking the start of the Jamaica Observer Applaud It! an initiative that allows the youth of the next generation to be introduced to social and fine-dining skills by partnering them with Jamaica's top industry pathfinders and executives. This would come from the Nestlé group's Marketing Manager Sean Wallace, accompanied by his associates Linton Johnson, customer facing supply chain manager; Patrice Pusey-Martin, channel category sales development specialist; and Dianne Thompson, business manager - Infant Nutrition. Also present was Applaud It! conceptualiser Novia McDonald-Whyte, who served to introduce the students to fine-dining etiquette, and Natalie Chin, the newspaper's head of marketing, advertising and communication.

Napkins placed, it was now time for Garfene Grandison, Nestlé public relations and digital manager, to explain the Applaud It! Initiative to the guests and also Nestlé's Healthy Kids Programme, “a global initiative in 84 countries that is all about helping children learn how to live healthily”. Nestlé - whose mission is to encourage a better and healthier society - fittingly invited the students to introduce themselves and share their career aspirations. While those ranged from nursing and neurosurgery to firefighting and teaching, the students all opined that underlining this was their vision for a better Jamaica; one with less violence.

This segued into the first of three courses with the Deconstructed Vision Master Salad - a blend of cauliflower, broccoli, grape, cherry, tomato, strawberry slivers, crispy kale and apples served in a taco shell. Even the most apprehensive students, ranging from nine to 11 years old, after some encouragement from Nestlé's guest chef Jacqui Tyson, enjoyed the unique salad. “When you eat this salad you become a Nestlé superhero!” joked Tyson, much to the amusement of the students, several of whom then excitedly forked the salad's leafy greens to their mouths. Enamoured with the light table conversation shared between the students, their chaperones and the Nestlé staff, the students still made sure to mind their table manners - wiping their mouths delicately with their napkins and skilfully manipulating their knives and forks.

“[Tacos] are trending right now. When we meet next I can show you how to make it so you can go home and make it for mom,” Tyson said. Nestlé's approach to enhancing quality of life is holistic, targeting families, communities and the world.

The second course was then brought out; Cini Minis Crumble - chicken medallion encrusted in Cini Minis Crunch cereal atop yam, and toasted plantain on a bed of perfumed quilted callaloo. Tyson reminded the students, “You must eat colourful… We chefs like to give you pretty plates. Your garnish is parsley, with plantain to make it sweet.”

The students were especially excited about the last course, the “Unforgettable Trio” dessert selection - a shot of MILO chocolate Mousse, Trix crispy cheesecake bite, and a mini Quik milkshake. During this course, students eagerly submitted questions to the Nestlé execs. “What do you do as a marketing manager?” asked Antwuan Clarke, student of St Jude's Primary School and aspiring neurosurgeon. Wallace easily responded, “The pleasure of working with an exciting and innovative team and helping them channel their creative energies in everything they do,” adding, “I just try to look busy all of the time.” This was met with uproarious laughter from the whole room.

When it came time to answer about his role in the company, Linton Johnson, customer facing supply chain manager, smartly explained that his role was to “ensure that customers are served on a daily basis and that they are happy”. Antwuan asked again, “What kind of advice can you give me as a student?”

“Try and do something you enjoy doing. If you have a drive for something, I'm sure you will do well. And listen to your teachers”, Wallace responded, much to the delight of the chaperones Iminithia Willoughby-Thompson and Vinnette Hunter of St Jude's and St Francis Primary, respectively.

Jada Bolton, of the St Francis Primary School, jumped at the opportunity to ask her question to Nestlé's Dianne Thompson. “How does it feel to be a woman in this business?”.

“Don't focus on whether you are a man or woman in this business. Just make sure you are good and the top of what you do,” Thompson advised the aspiring veterinarian. Wallace spoke praises of Nestlé, and rightfully so, after being asked by the reserved Jayden Thomas of St Francis Primary what it was like to work there every day. Beaming, he responded, “Interesting, because there are so many facets to what we do. We have world-class facilities modelled after offices around the world here in our own local Jamaica.” A day at Nestlé, he summarised, was “fun, exciting, challenging, and rewarding”.

Both Wallace and Johnson spent the closing of the luncheon applauding the Observer initiative. Wallace exclaimed that it was a really good opportunity to be able to “interact with these bright youngsters” after noticing the students' genuine interest in the dining and life skills they had gained. “There are many times we take things for granted,” he added.

Lunch came to a close with the traditional Applaud It! branded cake, made by Sugarjunkie, and bearing the Nestlé branding.