Sebastiano Ingaliso is the head sommelier at Malmaison Aberdeen.
Sebastiano Ingaliso is only 41, but he already has some of the best-known names in hospitality on his CV, including Relais & Châteaux, Mosimann’s and the Goring, as well as his current role at boutique hotel chain Malmaison.
It wasn’t always Ingaliso’s long-term plan to get into hospitality, but after working at the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy, as a student he realised he had a knack for good hospitality and there was no looking back.
He began his career in England at Hambleton Hall hotel in Leicestershire before stints at a range of Italian hotels and restaurants, including the Sheraton in Genoa and the Villa La Massa – a Relais & Châteaux property – in Florence.
Returning to England in 2002, Ingaliso joined the Goring Hotel in London as head sommelier, a role he held for four years. Next up was a head sommelier role at iconic private members’ club Mosimann’s, before joining Malmaison Aberdeen last November. Ingaliso recently agreed to become head sommelier at the Hotel du Vin in Glasgow, effective from 4 December.
Ingaliso’s love of the industry is obvious: his conversation is peppered with talk of “being passionate” and it is central to his advice for anyone wanting to succeed in hospitality.
“Passion and humility are the things that I say to all the young guys,” he explains. “Ideally you should have a natural disposition to look after the customer, but service can be trained as long as you are ready to learn.”
Ingaliso admits he has worked at some properties where this passion wasn’t evident – something he believes is a wider problem for the industry.
“In general, the trade is still underrated as a good place to work, and the passion for detail is something we are losing,” he says.
“There is a pressing need for the industry to raise the levels of customer service.”
But Ingaliso stresses that the hospitality industry can offer opportunities like no other.
“Thankfully I have had the opportunity to serve big, big personalities including the Royal Family and the Pope,” he says.
“It was a great learning curve for me. I always remember the advice Mr Goring gave me: ‘Look after your customers as if they were guests at your home’.”
HIGHS… Training with Gualtiero Marchesi – Italy’s first three-Michelin-starred chef – at the beginning of my career was unbelievable and taught me so much. He is one of the greatest chefs the world has ever had.
Another high was when Rémy Krug came to London to present one of his vintages at the Goring hotel. He asked me to do the presentation for it and at the end he said that there was “nothing to add” to my technical information. I was walking in the clouds, as you can imagine.
LOWS… The lowest point of my career was when I was in Hong Kong for a business trip and some Asian businessmen poured lemonade in some of the Pomerol’s top châteaux! I had to leave the wine tasting room for a big breath to recover from the shock.
Other than that, I have worked in a couple of places where people were not passionate about hospitality, which is always a low.
Family Lives with girlfriend
Favourite holiday Anywhere with vineyards, art and sunshine
Drives No. I lived in London for long enough to know you don’t need one
Motto Try to do your best every day
I have worked at so many amazing places, including Relais & Châteaux properties and Michelin-starred restaurants, with the Goring hotel and Mosimann’s particular highlights
Focus on wines that are not necessarily famous, but are good value for money, as the more famous wines can be overpriced by as much as 25%. There is now a habit for sommeliers to follow the trend, looking at critics’ scores rather than relying on their own judgement.