Ludovic Bargibant is the restaurant manager at Les Ambassadeurs Club in Park Lane, London.
Ludovic Bargibant is driven by two passions: food and people. As such, a career in hospitality was inevitable. "I've always had a love for food," he says. "I didn't like sitting behind a desk so I went to catering school in Paris, and I've never looked back."
There he learned the "art de la table" and discovered that he wanted ultimately to work front of house. His first forays into employment were with the Forte Group, at the Hotel Plaza Athénée, Paris and then the Hotel des Bergues in Geneva.
Three years later Bargibant returned to Paris with a view to furthering his career in the French capital but a chance encounter with the restaurant manager of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons led to a move to the UK and the renowned Oxfordshire restaurant of Raymond Blanc, which he describes as one of his best ever experiences in the catering industry.
"Monsieur Blanc is an inspiration," he says. "My best memory is when I served a table for two in the Japanese Garden."
Bargibant went on to work at the Chelsea Village Hotel before joining the opening team of City of London eatery Coq d'Argent as head waiter. "It was very rewarding in terms of numbers and footfall but I wanted to achieve a Michelin star and that's really difficult in such a big environment," he explains.
As a result, he moved on to become assistant manager of Gary Rhodes' one-Michelin-starred City Rhodes restaurant where he says he fell in love with British cooking. Despite a two-year interim period in contract catering working for Sodexo and Aramark, Bargibant spent nearly a decade working with Rhodes, ultimately becoming general manager of the Compass-managed Rhodes 24.
"Gary inspires loyalty and makes you want to get the best out of yourself," he says. "And he rates service as high as, if not higher than, the food."
Bargibant's latest role is manager at the Milroy restaurant in Park Lane casino, Les Ambassadeurs. Launched on 10 May, he says his self-set challenge now is to make it the best eatery attached to a casino in the UK. He adds: "I'm learning a lot about the gaming side of the business. Wherever I've worked there's always been something to learn, which is very rewarding. I'm thoroughly enjoying it."
HIGHS… Some of Bargibant's greatest achievements have come through the successes of his staff. He was particularly proud when Leah Fellstad, a member of his front-of-house team at Rhodes 24, won at 2005's Young Chef Young Waiter competition.
"It was brilliant to see someone I work with achieve something like this, especially as she mentioned that I inspire her, even though she earned it 100%," he says.
Also in 2005, Rhodes 24 was awarded a Michelin star. Bargibant says: "Personally I think it's not just the food but the way it is served. It all plays a part. The team celebrated very quietly with Champagne and then it was back to business."
LOWS… Guy Degrenne, the renowned French cutlery manufacturer, was one of Bargibant's regulars during his apprenticeship in Paris - an experience that left him less than impressed.
Degrenne kept snapping his fingers to call him out, so Bargibant decided not to serve him again all night.
"I was tempted to lift the tablecloth and ask him if he was looking for his dog," he says.
"Of course, I got into trouble and these days I would never react like that. I'm much wiser now."
Bargibant's first red-faced career moment came when he was working at the Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. He was carrying a tray laden with 24 crystal candle holders when he tripped.
"I dropped the lot. I just wanted to run and hide," he recalls. "Especially in this luxury environment, it was clear the candle holders didn't cost a fiver from the corner shop. It was really disturbing."
But Bargibant reflects that it is good to have these memories to look back on and laugh about.
Family Married, one child
Favourite holiday Provence
Drives Hyundai I30 estate
Motto Don't do tomorrow what you could have done today
Don't slash staff and cut costs. Look after your customers even better than you did before, because good service is crucial