World of Flavors

J-1 program brings international students to The Cliffs culinary, food and beverage programs


It’s widely known that members throughout The Cliffs’ seven communities have tasted the world. Thanks to a new program at The Cliffs, a variety of far-flung tastes have arrived in the clubhouses’ kitchens—and some of those flavors can get a little spicy.

“When I was planning this menu for them,” Danish Mansoori says of the Indian specials he cooked up at The Cliffs Valley one week last spring, “it was a task for me to control the spices and make them according to members’ tastes.”

Danish, 24 and from Mumbai, happens to be The Cliffs’ first intern through the U.S. State Department’s J-1 visa. The Exchange Visitor Program welcomes foreign nationals ranging from au pairs to culinary students and research scholars to food and beverage workers.

For The Cliffs, the program presents a tasty opportunity to bring a world of talent to its culinary and food and beverage services, says Steve Savage, Recruitment Manager at The Cliffs.

The Cliffs aims to hire 21 of these young people each year, who, at the moment, hail from the Philippines, Nepal, Turkey, and Zimbabwe, with most, like Danish, coming from India.

After undergoing a competitive hiring process and securing the prized J-1 visas, interns work for a year at The Cliffs, which provides housing and a stipend.

“They’re amazing. Their work ethic is just incredible,” Savage says. “They’re representing their countries with their native cuisine and getting a chance to get their name out there. For them, it’s great, and it’s great for us.”

Danish arrived at The Cliffs Valley last August. When he got the opportunity to show off his chops, he prepared two Indian appetizers—chicken lollipops and butter-garlic shrimp—and two entrees—butter chicken with naan and beef roulade with rogan josh, a tomato-based curry sauce.

Back home, he explains, “the food’s gotta bring the heat.” Here, though, “I did many trials before I put it on the menu, I tried to do very light spice, as much as I could,” he says. “And I was successful at it.”

Cheryl Chng, who joined The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards’ food and beverage department this past April, finds participation in The Cliffs’ J-1 program a success on multiple levels.

The 23-year-old server speaks whimsically of her new surroundings, so far from her tropical and bustling hometown in the Philippines.

“Nature calms me,” she says. “Every morning when I go to work it feels surreal. Nature is everywhere. I pass by so many trees and animals, and when I reach Keowee Vineyards, the air is so fresh. It really motivates me.”

And she echoes what Danish says about their experiences at The Cliffs so far. “I feel so grateful because I interact with the people who are more professional than me and I’m learning how to deal with it, how to serve them in a proper way,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the experience that The Cliffs gave me at their club.”

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To see more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

Related Stories