Michael Staub talks to Katherine Price about how winning the 2018 Gold Service Scholarship has been his ticket to a world of opportunities that have taken him State-side
In becoming the sixth winner of one of the UK’s most prestigious front of house competitions, Michael Staub has been handed a golden passport.
As well as being given the chance to undertake a raft of intensive training opportunities, he now has world-leading hospitality stalwarts on hand for advice and support and has been introduced to a network of enviable contacts. And, as a direct result of carrying off the 2018 Gold Service Scholarship, he has landed himself a plum job in the US.
Swiss-born Staub, formerly floor manager of the Holborn Dining Room at Rosewood London, is now in-room dining manager at Rosewood’s Sand Hill hotel in California.
“When I won, people at Rosewood wanted to talk to me about my next move, and we started to look at the different opportunities around the world. We decided Sand Hill was the perfect next step for me,” he says.
“It’s one of our most successful hotels within the group. It’s an interesting market, and there are interesting plans for the hotel. I wanted to be part of that.”
The 26-year-old now manages 40 members of staff at the property and oversees the 121-bedroom hotel’s Pool Bar & Grill – which is currently closed and undergoing a revamp. “One of the privileges of this industry is that you can work around the world in many different locations,” he says. “It helps you to grow and collect more experience.”
The Gold Service Scholarship
Staub entered the 2017 Gold Service Scholarship shortly after graduating with a BSc in international hospitality management from L’École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland and just weeks after arriving in the UK as a food and beverage management trainee with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. He was urged to apply for the competition by then-director of food and beverage Scott Wallen (who now also works at Sand Hill as hotel manager).
“Without ever dreaming of winning it, I thought I would give it a go,” he says. Although he didn’t win, he made it to the final, and returned the following year, when he was awarded the scholarship.
Having moved to the US just six months later, Staub has not been able to take full advantage of his prizes, but they are not limited to the year of his scholarship. A trip to Champagne, a stage at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and a placement at the Waterside Inn or Le Gavroche are among the opportunities that Staub could yet undertake. So far, he has undertaken a tea masterclass at the London School of Tea, completed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level Two and worked a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace.
“It was really interesting to experience a very traditional service style at the royal garden party,” he says. “It was great to see how catering to 7,000 people is organised and how to take care of that many guests in an extremely professional manner.
“The most interesting part of the opportunities I’ve had has been meeting new people,” he adds. “The scholarship contestants all have different stories, come from different backgrounds and work in different establishments with different styles of hospitality, but everybody has something to share and you can learn from all of them.
“Being surrounded by these motivated and passionate people reassured me that this is what I want to do. I was really inspired to work even harder towards my goals. And, at least in my instance, there were some technical skills that I was able to develop that I hadn’t practiced as much before because of the establishment in which I worked.”
As well as encouraging him to enter the scholarship in the first place, he is thankful for the support he received from Rosewood throughout the competition – including from assistant director of food and beverage Julien Foussadier, Holborn Dining Room executive chef Calum Franklin and head sommelier Michael Raebel, who all helped him to prepare and practice specific skills.
With trustees including Alastair Storey, Willy Bauer and Edward Griffiths, who are on hand to support entrants, the networking opportunities the scholarship provides are a strong reason Staub says young people should enter the competition.
“Use every opportunity to connect with all the participants – the contestants, the judges and the trustees alike,” he advises. He describes industry legend, former Waterside Inn general manager and scholarship ambassador Diego Masciaga, as “an incredible mentor, a source of guidance, advice, reassurance and inspiration before making the decision to come [to California], in the transition phase, and since I have started here”.
He adds, “This help has been so precious and it was only possible due to the Gold Service Scholarship.”
The networking opportunities have not only benefited Staub, but also his fellow finalists – Christian Köhle, for instance, who was working as head waiter at Fera at Claridge’s in London, is now not only a good friend, but is flat-sharing with Staub in California, since Köhle was also hired at Sand Hill as assistant restaurant manager.
“It really shows how powerful the ‘Team Gold’ network can be,” says Staub.
Staub’s enthusiasm and passion for hospitality is clear, but with the current staffing crisis, he says the industry could be more vocal about the flexibility it can offer in terms of hours, training and the breadth of roles on offer.
“As an industry we can do better,” he says, and describes his experience as a manager working in California, which has stricter labour laws than the UK, as a great learning curve.
California law requires an employer to pay employees overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week and eight hours in a day. An employer is also required to pay double the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 in a day, and employees are entitled to an hour of pay if they do not take a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked.
“It’s very interesting to work as a manager here, where everything is very clearly set in stone,” he says. He emphasises that he is keen to learn new ways in which the hospitality industry can evolve by observing how it operates elsewhere in the world.
Looking to the future
“I just want to continue to do what I like to do,” he says. “It never feels like work if you like what you do. If one day there’s something else that I want to do, then I’ll do it, but I’m definitely on the path that I like, so I just want to continue that.”
He sees travelling as key to his self-development and would particularly like to spend time working in Asia. Long-term, he would return to Europe, potentially the UK: “I had a wonderful time there and I can see myself coming back.”
For young people in the industry looking to develop their skills, he advises them to enter the Gold Service Scholarship: “If you’re passionate about the hospitality industry, you will learn so much, not just about service or the industry, but also about yourself.”
To current and future competitors, his advice is: “Be yourself; be humble; and be open to learning new things. And, most of all, have fun.”
Michael Staub’s CV
2018-present In-room dining manager, Rosewood Sand Hill, California, US
2017-2018 Floor manager, Holborn Dining Room, Rosewood London
2016-2017 Management trainee – food and beverage, Rosewood London
2015 Sales and marketing trainee, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London
2013 Rooms division trainee, Grand Hyatt Shanghai, China
2011-2012 Food and beverage trainee, Park Hyatt Zurich, Switzerland
2010-2011 Crew member/trainer, McDonald’s, Bern, Switzerland
Gold Service Scholarship 2019 finalists
This year’s scholar will be announced at a ceremony at Claridge’s in London on 4 February. The finalists are (from left):
• James Dainton, assistant restaurant manager, the Northall at Corinthia Hotel London
• Lauren Chappell, assistant restaurant manager, Cromlix hotel, Kinbuck, Perthshire
• Tiziano de Mattia, assistant restaurant manager, Hide, London
• Eleanor Dimes, junior head waitress, Lucknam Park, Chippenham, Wiltshire
• Laura Schlegel, head waitress, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London
• Alexander Sumerauer, first head waiter, the Ritz, London
• Karen Gruet, assistant restaurant manager, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
• George Austin, maître d’hotel, Annabel’s, London
The previous winners: where are they now?
2013 Rebecca Clough (née Dibben), talent and resourcing executive, Harbour Hotels Group
2014 James Fleming, reception manager, the Stafford hotel, London
2015 Daniele Quattromini, Northall operations manager, Corinthia Hotel London
2016 Jennifer Santner, restaurant manager, Angler, London
2017 Stephanie Beresforde, former assistant restaurant manager, Jean-Georges at the Connaught, London (currently travelling)