Diego Masciaga, The Waterside Inn

The Staff Canteen

Diego Masciaga discusses his role as Director and General manager at The Waterside Inn and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Diego Masciaga

Diego Masciaga

Place of work: The Waterside Inn

Role: Director and general manager

Bio: Starting his career in the industry when he was 13, Diego worked in restaurants around Europe before moving to London and starting at La Gavroche, working his way up the ranks before working in top establishments around the world. He then moved back to the UK where he started at The Waterside Inn as a restaurant manager, where he has been for 30 years, ensuring impeccable standards and perfect service from his team.  

How did you get into the industry?

When I was very young I started in the industry because where I lived in Italy there were only a few options available. So I went to cookery school at 14 and moved to France, then Germany, and finally I came to the UK to learn English. But the main reason I joined this profession is because I always loved to please people.

How many years did it take you to get to the level that you are at now?

Well, I started working in restaurants when I was 13, and I joined Mr Roux at La Gavroche in 1983 when I was 20 as a Commis. I was already speaking Italian, French and German fluently, and as soon as I learnt more English, three months later I was promoted and three months after that I was Matre D’Hotel. My first job as a

The Waterside Inn

manager in London was in 1985, but when you do my job it is not enough to know about food and about wine,  you have to have a lot of general knowledge on everything as well, to be able to talk to the guests. So I went to Germany to learn management at  University, and I would say it took at least 10 years of hard work and sweat to get to the level I’m at now. I’ll be the first one to tell someone when they start that they can achieve a high position if they work for it.  So when I was at this level I went to the USA where I was a manager of a  restaurant, and then to France where I was the manager of a three  Michelin star. I joined Mr Michel here at the Waterside in 1998, as a  restaurant manager, and then I was promoted to director of the company. I  was very honoured but I didn’t want to give up the restaurant, it’s what I want to do. I still look after the guests, clearing plates, and I’m not ashamed of doing that because it’s the only way to know if your guests are happy or not.

If you could go back, would you do it all again?

Yes, yes I would. I wouldn’t change anything. I would start the same way and build up my skills travelling the world, just as I did. It’s only from travelling that you truly learn about different cultures and religions. I’m not the best, I’m just Diego, but I was lucky enough to learn these things, and I would do it all again.

The Waterside Inn view from the river

How long would you say it should take for someone to reach the same level that you are at?

Well if you’ve got languages behind you, knowledge behind you and most importantly management skills, it should take you about 10 to 15 years. I f you start at 15 for example, on your 30th you’ll be very good indeed. It all depends on the establishments you are managing as well.

Do you think there is enough focus on front of house?

What can I say, there are highs and lows in the front of house. There is a high profile in the kitchen, especially in the UK, and to me, a Chef is an artist. On front of house, being a waiter has never been a profession. In some places, the Chefs or the owners don’t allow the front of house to be the front of house. These days, less and less people are staying in the profession, so young people wanting to start this career have no one to look up to, no one to look at and think “I want to be like them.” It doesn’t get the exposure that it should get sadly.

Do you think there is enough training for front of house?

No there is not much at all.  If I was a young man today, what would I do? If you go straight into working in a restaurant you won’t learn much, because there is no real training behind it. I would love to have a school, I think the problem with service in this country is that the young people are not being told that service is much more than serving food.

The Waterside Inn terrace

Do you think it is down to passion and natural ability or can good customer service be taught?

Well, you have to be passionate about the job, you have to be hungry for success, but most of all you have to be proud of what you are doing. If you are proud of putting the plate in front of the guest and serving the wine, it is a wonderful thing. If you are proud, passionate and hungry, you will go far.

You’ve been at the Waterside Inn for 30 years, why is it you stayed there for so long?

What kept me here was the guests at the Waterside and the team. The boys and girls that I have trained here, they give me more satisfaction than anything else. It’s definitely not the hours, I work 16 hours a day. The Rouxs are an institution, and I am very proud to be a part of it.

Would you encourage others to do the same? How long ideally should someone stay in the same establishment?

No, I’m the exception.  I would say when you look in the mirror and you’ve lost your sparkle and enthusiasm for the job, it is time to move on. If you stay for 30 years in one place you can become very bored, unless you are mad like me.

What are your top five tips for aspiring food service professional?

1. First of all, you have to be hungry for success

2. You need to reach for excellence

3. It is very important to enjoy pleasing people

4. Knowledge is extremely important, general knowledge so you can talk to guests

5. You have to be honest and humble, but don’t be a doormat.

View Feature posts about Diego Masciaga

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Editor 8th September 2016

Diego Masciaga, The Waterside Inn