Daniele Quattromini, the 26-year-old Gold Service Scholarship 2015 winner and manager of the Lusso-operated Club Lounge 39 in One Canada Square, talks to Katey Pigden about his future as a top front of house professional
But the young hospitality professional could have pursued a different game entirely - at the age of 16 he played football for the semi-professional team Kentish Town FC, before moving to Hadley FC at 18 and then Edgware Town at 24. But last Christmas he decided to give up playing the beautiful game for his main passion - front of house.
"In sport it's about the aggression, passion and determination to win, and I treat my working life the same," he says. "Competitions are important and I always enter to win."
Understandably, he was "devastated" when he was unsuccessful in the 2014 Gold Service Scholarship, the first year he entered the competition - the second in its history. However, the experience made him even more determined, and while attending the 2014 awards ceremony at Claridge's, where James Fleming was crowned winner, he had made up his mind that he would be back the following year.
Club Lounge 39
"I knew I was going to win," he says confidently. "The second time round I knew what to expect and was able to correct my mistakes. I was on top form and had prepared, so I was able to enjoy the final.
"I had fantastic people on my table who were engaging and asking questions, so by the end of the service I knew I couldn't have done anymore. I thought 'if someone else's best beats mine, then fair enough'."
And the Gold Service Scholarship wasn't his only success in 2015. Just a few months later, Quattromini went on to become an Acorn Award winner, being recognised as one of the industry's most promising stars under 30.
"It was such an honour to win the Gold Service Scholarship. To be named an Acorn Award winner in the same year was an amazing feeling. Being on the Acorn list was something we always used to talk about at university."
Quattromini graduated in hospitality management from Bournemouth University in 2013, but even as a child he knew he wanted a career in hospitality. He was inspired by his grandfather, who owned a restaurant, and recalls hospitality being a part of daily life.
"There was always a level of service at home - taking a coat, checking if guests wanted anything, offering them a drink - all things that I have been able to transfer."
And it's his job as manager at the private members' club on the 39th floor of One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, which he thinks helped contribute to him winning the scholarship. "I love what I do and I'm happy to spend more than 12 hours to get the job done," he says.
"We pride ourselves on service and meeting the needs of our members. We know people by name and we know when to assist them and when they might prefer to be left alone.
"Lusso encouraged me to enter the competition and gave me lots of training, so I had no doubt I had all the required skills to win. Suddenly the trustees no longer seemed scary."
A blank canvas
Club Lounge 39
Quattromini joined foodservice operator CH&Co Group in October 2013 and moved to Club Lounge 39, run by its Lusso Catering arm, six months later, when it first opened. Back then it was a blank canvas, and so he came up with the idea for the restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch for professionals in the finance, technology and investor communities.
He is grateful to have been given the freedom to suggest ideas and is constantly looking for ways to improve. Currently he plans to evolve the restaurant to allow for a commercial offering for evenings and special events, while maintaining the members' club during the day. The site, he believes, has plenty more potential. And he wants to give more people the chance to experience the London scenery from this special vantage point - one which makes him feel like he's "king of the world".
It's not just the view that has contributed to that feeling. His experiences and the industry greats he has met along the way have also played a big part. His university studies allowed for work experience stints at the likes of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford.
"We were told there was only one placement available at Le Manoir, and I didn't think I would get it," he says. "But my lecturer encouraged me to put myself forward. I was offered a trial and when I got the job I had a glowing smile on my face; I was so happy.
"It was a completely different world and I was mesmerised. It's like a school of Le Manoir where people pass on their skills. Just watching Philip Newman-Hall is a lesson in itself. Le Manoir set the bar for what I want to do - it magnifies standards."
Quattromini hopes his own work and experiences will inspire other young people to pursue a career in what he describes as "a dynamic and rewarding industry. More young people are warming to the industry, but more needs to be done to attract them for the long-term," he says.
"The Gold Service Scholarship is the best advocate for nurturing front of house talent; something which we could do with more of in the industry," says Quattromini. "I only know about the people to look up to because I work in the industry, but there are very few role models for those who know little about it."
Since being selected as the 2015 scholar, Quattromini has worked with one of his idols, Diego Masciaga, at the Waterside Inn in Bray.
"Diego is an inspirational general manager, who transfers knowledge and skills. I thoroughly enjoyed working at the Waterside Inn and was made to feel part of the team."
"Diego is a father figure to the team, who is firm but fair. He shows such finesse and style on the floor. You could see how he changed his approach to each person and could make snap judgements, demonstrating his emotional intelligence."
Other experiences include a week-long placement at Buckingham Palace at the time of President Xi Jinping of China's state visit, and trips to Bordeaux and Champagne to learn from wine producers. Still to come is a one-week stage at the Mandarin Oriental in Europe.
"I've met some fantastic people on the trips and have formed lasting friendships. It has been a phenomenal experience. I want to become a mentor for young people and help them on their journey," he says.
Tim Jones, CH&Co Group chairman says: "Quattromini has excellent skills and we are very proud of him."
Club Lounge 39
"Club Lounge 39 is my baby," he says fondly. "I feel privileged to manage this space. I've taken on a number of new responsibilities, including accounts, recruitment and helping design the website. I've learned to be patient, as ideas can take a while to be put into action, and I work closely with the client to ensure we provide what they want and need. I love having the freedom of being left to get on with it, but I know it's equally important to empower my team."
Quattromini's long-term goal is to own his own business, possibly in West End hotels, and he hopes to add a highly acclaimed Catey to his Gold Service Scholarship accolade. "That would be a dream," he says.
He shrugs off the idea of entering for this year's awards, but with a man of such talent, it's only a matter of time before such dreams become a reality.
Good as gold
Daniele Quattromini's advice for future Gold Service Scholarship competitors:
- Preparation is key.
- Learn the menu - make sure you know it off by heart.
- Perform in front of someone before the final and ask for their feedback.
- Work with the team.
- Make use of available resources.
- Ask for support - don't suffer in silence.
- Stay calm and keep your cool even when you're running out of time.
- Try to resolve problems - you 're likely to face a few.
- Remember the people with the clipboards actually want you to succeed.
Gold Service Scholarship 2016 finalists
This year's final took place at the Connaught hotel. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony at Claridge's on Tuesday
The finalists were:
- Sophia Warland, RAF Odiham, Hampshire
- Christoph Schrottenbaum, Dinner at Heston Blumenthal, London
- Tom Noller, Sexy Fish, London
- Stephanie Beresforde, Scott's Restaurant, London
- James Parum, Buckingham Palace, London
- Jennifer Santner, Sky Garden, London
- Innes Haywood, L'Enclume, Cumbria
- Charlie Lee, Fera at Claridge's, London
2014-present Manager, Club Lounge 39, Lusso Catering, CH&Co Group
2013-2014 Assistant hospitality manager, Lusso Catering, CH&Co Group
2013 Trainee hospitality manager, Norton Rose Fulbright
2013 Head waiter, Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa
2011-2012 Chef de rang, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
2010 Head waiter, Hendon Hall hotel
Paul Hurren, managing director of Lusso
"Although Daniele wasn't successful the first time he entered the Gold Service Scholarship, we felt that he definitely had what it takes to win and wanted to help him be the winner next time around.
"We put in place a series of training and mentoring opportunities that really helped build his confidence. He was fast-tracked to be involved in special projects and promoted to a new role within the company. By the time a year had passed, we were convinced that he could do it and the feedback from one of the judges underpinned how far he had come.
"By the time he returned, he wowed the same judge with how much he had grown in confidence and maturity - he 'owned' the room when he went in, and was focused on making customers feel special.
"It felt great for us as a company to be able to help him achieve his dream."
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