It takes a vil­lage to run a top restau­rant, from the chefs who dream up de­li­cious dishes in the kitchen to the front-of-house staff who en­sure a mem­o­rable din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But when did you last thank the man­ager?

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - Content -

We put the spot­light on the pro­fes­sion­als who make din­ing out a mem­o­rable, first class ex­pe­ri­ence

De­li­cious food served by a restau­rant just won’t cut it in to­day’s com­pet­i­tive din­ing scene. Stel­lar ser­vice is equally im­por­tant, as sea­soned restau­ra­teurs like Wolf­gang Puck, who has built a suc­cess­ful culi­nary em­pire span­ning more than 100 restau­rants, can at­test. “You can serve the best food in the world, but if the staff are not po­lite, they won’t spend their money there,” he once told T.din­ing.

These are the pro­fes­sion­als who make din­ers feel like VIPS, those who work long hours deal­ing with all kinds of whims and de­sires on a daily ba­sis. But for Jas­mine Low, the petite som­me­lier at Les Amis who’s al­ways ready with a warm smile, she never con­sid­ers it a chore. She says: “We al­ways go the ex­tra mile for our guests—and to see a smile on their faces is the best re­ward I can get.”

How does one go the ex­tra mile in this busi­ness? Sho­taro Aoki, who jug­gles man­ager and som­me­lier du­ties at Terra Tokyo Italian, goes as far as mem­o­ris­ing the faces of first­time cus­tomers, as well as where they sat and what they or­dered, so that the next time they come for a visit, he can en­gage them in friendly con­ver­sa­tion. He con­fesses: “Usu­ally, they’ll be very im­pressed and happy to know I re­mem­ber them from the last time. It makes a huge im­pact.”

For Victoria Vilchez, as­sis­tant man­ager at Ola Cocina del Mar and Tono Ce­vicheria, she’s al­ways ob­ser­vant of what din­ers need. She shares: “Once I no­ticed a guest feel­ing very cold, so I ap­proached her with a shawl be­fore she asked for one. Say­ing she was ap­pre­cia­tive would be an un­der­state­ment—she was awed!”

Great ser­vice also in­cludes giv­ing good rec­om­men­da­tions. Cé La Vi has brought in Mathias Camil­leri, Sin­ga­pore’s first master som­me­lier, to its team. He has been with the restau­rant for a cou­ple of months and is al­ready in the process of ex­pand­ing its wine list. “My goal is to of­fer a ver­sa­tile se­lec­tion to please ev­ery palate by cov­er­ing as many coun­tries as pos­si­ble, shar­ing con­fi­den­tial and trendy grapes, and show­cas­ing some of the most iconic wines,” he says.

Adam Bur­sik, bar man­ager at Ori­gin

Bar, likes to keep it cre­ative in the cock­tail de­part­ment to keep guests com­ing back for more. And they do, which Bur­sik also at­tributes to “be­ing gen­uine and not pre­tend­ing to be some­one we’re not”.

“It’s all about an­tic­i­pat­ing din­ers’ needs even be­fore they ask for some­thing, with­out be­ing in­tru­sive TI­MOTHY LIM WAKU GHIN BY TET­SUYA WAKUDA

Ser­vice is a con­tin­u­ous learn­ing process, so Ti­mothy Lim, gen­eral man­ager at Waku Ghin by Tet­suya Wakuda, stresses the im­por­tance of fur­ther train­ing. “Chef Tet­suya al­ways re­minded us that great ser­vice should be there, but not there,” he adds, af­firm­ing that the abil­ity to read guests comes from lots of guid­ance and watch­ing the man­agers work the floor.

In­deed, ser­vice is of­ten over­looked—just think of the num­ber of times you thanked the floor staff and not only the chef af­ter that won­der­ful din­ner. “One of the best re­wards I get is when a diner per­son­ally thanks me af­ter the meal,” cites Cé­line Chatte, head som­me­lier at Jaan. Jia Ling, as­sis­tant restau­rant man­ager at Odette (she also han­dles the cheese trol­ley) agrees, stat­ing that she loves get­ting to know peo­ple who spend time in the restau­rant. “They can be very suc­cess­ful peo­ple, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials or reg­u­lar folks like my­self who have be­come my friends.”

Great ser­vice is a com­bi­na­tion of knowl­edge, un­der­stand­ing the guest’s needs, per­son­al­ity and flair— with a touch of el­e­gance MATHIAS CAMIL­LERI CÉ LA VI

It’s im­por­tant to know when guests are in­ter­ested to make a con­nec­tion with you— un­der­stand what they need and give it to them at the right time ADAM BUR­SIK ORI­GIN BAR

I en­joy shar­ing my knowl­edge about wines with my col­leagues and guests, as well as learn­ing from them, too. Ev­ery day is a learn­ing op­por­tu­nity, and I al­ways push my­self and strive to do bet­ter JAS­MINE LOW LES AMIS

We have a Ja­panese say­ing that trans­lates to ‘read the at­mos­phere’. I try to pay at­ten­tion and un­der­stand what the cus­tomers want with­out them hav­ing to tell me ver­bally SHO­TARO AOKI TERRA TOKYO ITALIAN

The front-of-house team isn’t only there to serve, but to cre­ate mem­o­rable and ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ences CÉ­LINE CHATTE JAAN

Ser­vice and food go hand in hand. You can have the best chef cook­ing the best food, but if the ser­vice isn’t good enough, the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence won’t be as mem­o­rable JIA LING ODETTE

I’ll ap­proach guests and ask how their day was, in­stead of just ask­ing about the food. In this way, I’ll cre­ate a more personal re­la­tion­ship with them, which they tend to ap­pre­ci­ate VICTORIA VILCHEZ OLA COCINA DEL MAR AND TONO CE­VICHERIA

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