Tizazu Kore, the owner of Yod (Meaning to witness or Speak in Guragenga) Abyssinia Traditional Restaurant hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his recent visit to Ethiopia. Tizazu is no stranger to hosting such dignitaries inside his unique cultural restaurant that was started in 2003. Here, he reflects with Samuel Getachew of The Reporter on that particular visit, on his biography, on being a proud citizen ambassador to the cultural diversity of his nation and an enterprise he started that has taken him all over the world looking at ways to help serve his growing clienteles. Excerpts:
The Reporter: You have been a noted owner of Yod Abyssinia cultural restaurant as well as a noted and practical Tour & Operator agent. Your restaurant has been noted for hosting heads-of-state, most recently the Canadian Prime Minister. That must have been an exciting adventure for you. Tell me about that?
Tizazu Kore: Hosting the Canadian Prime Minister was both a highlight and a privilege for me. I really enjoyed hosting and meeting with him and his delegation, including his accompanying ministers. When I was communicated with the chance to be host, I was excited. I knew we would deliver the unique hospitality many people have come to expect from us. I met with my staff members and started the preparation to be a gracious host and make an impression on him and his delegation.
I am certain; those who chose us on his behalf picked us because they knew we could deliver and meet their standard. Doing these kinds of engagement not only makes me happy, but also makes me be patriotic as I get to showcase our unique Ethiopian culture to the world.
How was the Prime Minister like in person?
I have to tell you, he seemed normal, humble and content with the powerful position he currently holds. I was asked to prepare a vegetarian delicacy for him. He really seemed to like what we prepared for him and he seemed delighted and seemed like he knows Ethiopian food well. He told me, how much he enjoyed it and I was delighted. Before he left, he told me, because he did not plan to eat for the rest of the day, that is all he was going to have and I encouraged him to eat more.
He seemed to love the texture of the food, the unique taste and the good ingredients we use to prepare our delicacy. We take pride in that and I have to tell you, it’s a great team effort that took us a longtime to assemble and it’s easy to see that.
That is really great. But hosting such celebrities in not unique to you?
It is not! We have hosted presidents, prime ministers and celebrities from all over the world, including the Prime Minister of South Korea, former Nigerian President Obasanjo Oluengun, for Foreign Minister of Israel and most recently the mayor of Washington DC and an array of diverse people. Often times, the late father of Ethiopian Tourism, Habte Selassie Tafesse frequented our place. He liked it and appreciated what I was trying to create with this restaurant. He knew, as much as I did, I was not just building a restaurant, but a legacy that my children would be proud of.
Also, while we appreciate all the endorsement we are receiving from all kinds of people, we do not cutter to those people alone, but we serve each of our customers as if they are celebrities and as our special guests.
How did you get into the hospitality business?
That is a short question to what is a long answer. As you may know, I was an anti hijacker agent in my younger days. I traveled all over the world to try to stop the flights of Ethiopian Airlines from being hijacked and causing unnecessarily accidents and death. But I left that part of my life about 30 years ago and entered the restaurant business.
My two attempts at owning restaurants failed for various reasons, including as a result of arson. I hit rock bottom and kept trying. And the location in Bole is my third try and after many attempts and constant willingness to learn from past experiences and being unique and different, I was finally able to succeed with this one and currently Yod Abyssinia has become a General Trading Business Group.
There are many similar restaurants such as yours. What makes yours different?
The fact is, we are. We do have unique food to begin with and our night life musical extravaganza is not just unique but represents diversity, beauty and class. Not only do our musicians sing in an array of Ethiopian languages, but they also sing in Mandarin. When people walk into our restaurant, despite the many that come to visit us regularly, we cater to their individual needs and make sure they have exceptionally great time with us.
When you walk into our restaurant, you find vast diversity of all kinds of people, from almost all nations, dancing, eating and enjoying themselves. In all we do, to our customers, we also make sure its one of their most memorable and that is why we have people coming back for more. They remain our ambassadors. That is why they let us host their guests, including their heads-of-states when ever they come to Ethiopia and there has not been a day we do not take that privilege to heart. To me, that is what excites me and reminds me that, no matter the rough road I have traveled in life – as a person and entrepreneur – that I am contributing its cultural mystique and doing my part to showcase the best of our nation to tourists.
How about your Tour & Travel business?
Yes, that has really taken off in the last few years. Through it, I have been able to visit many nations around the world, so that I get to experience what our customers do and see if any improvements can be made to make their experience even more memorable and enjoyable. In addition of taking people to a religious pilgrimage to places like Jerusalem, we also specialize on group tours, in nations such as Vietnam, Seychelles and all over Europe and within Africa.
While we also sell individual flight tickets, we can facilitate all section of a booking, from room booking, on the ground transportation and anything we are asked to do. We also have car rentals in our facilities, from small regular automobiles to all kinds – from those that are luxury cars to four-wheal drivers. It is having its own growth that is organic and one that learns from its lived experiences. From the tourism perspective, we want to be a one store shop to all their needs.
What is next for you?
What is next for me is to hold on what I am privileged to own – a great restaurant and a travel & tour company – and protect the brand as one that is made-in-Ethiopia that is never compromised but something that stands out for professionalism and great service. That is what I really want to – both as a legacy and as an Ethiopian entrepreneur.