Sardinian Max Cuccaru, 27, became involved in the hospitality business back in his home town in Italy because it was a good way to earn money in the summer when the tourists took over. Realising he enjoyed the customer contact, Cuccaru studied hospitality at school, learning about the many departments of a hotel, before starting work at a local hotel.
By April 1998 he was head waiter at hotel Romazzino in Porto Cervo, but keen to really move his fledgling career forward, he made a pact with four school friends to travel to London for six months and seek their fortune Dick Whittington-style.
Staying with friends, Cuccaru was recommended for a job at Pimlico-based Italian restaurant Villa Dei Cesari, which he joined as head waiter in November 1998.
While there, he heard of an exciting new hotel opening in the West End, Ian Schrager's St Martins Lane, and applied to work in its restaurant, Asia De Cuba.
Turning up at the then building site to hand in his CV, Cuccaru was led through a labyrinth of featureless corridors and given an interview on the spot - a terrifying experience as he had to answer questions simultaneously from four of the management team. Obviously impressed, they offered the 22-year-old a job as waiter, which he accepted.
Cuccaru's three friends may have returned to Italy, but "by being the right person, in the right place at the right time" he has moved rapidly through the ranks to his current role of restaurant manager.
"The best advice I can give is to always be honest and as open as you can," says Cuccaru. "It's very important to make sure you clearly communicate exactly what you expect from your staff."
He works a 40- to 45-hour week on average, matching early and evening shifts, but not Sundays. On Saturdays the restaurant will do about 415 covers with a team of 25-30 under Cuccaru's command at front of house.
Cuccaru claims he doesn't need to scream or shout at his team to get things done, preferring a laid-back but effective approach. "I have other ways of getting things done. I leave the screaming and shouting to the chefs," he jokes.
Although young, Cuccaru has set his sights high, and hopes to step up to the role of food and beverage director in the future when an opportunity presents itself.
"The best thing about the job is being around people you like," he says. "And the social element of making sure the customers enjoy themselves."
Moves to London to Villa Dei Cesari
Joins newly opened Asia de Cuba at St Martins Lane as head waiter
Assistant restaurant manager,
Asia de Cuba
Restaurant manager, Asia De Cuba