Diego Masciaga, General Manager, The Waterside Inn, Bray

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th July 2014

Diego Masciaga is the legendary General Manager at The Waterside Inn in Bray which has 3 stars in the Michelin Guide UK.

Born in Italy he has worked in 3 Michelin-starred establishments since the start of his career at the age of 16 and has worked with the Roux family for over 30 years.

How would you sum up the philosophy towards service at The Waterside?

First, the guest is not a number. I think if you get pleasure yourself from pleasing then you’ve won half the battle and this has always been my philosophy. My philosophy is also, too much service is really bad but not enough is bad as well and service is excellent when you don’t see it.

Diego & Team
Diego Masciaga

Technique and all those things come later; of course you have to have knowledge but knowledge alone is not enough if you don’t get pleasure yourself from serving, from pleasing, then it becomes just a job; service is more than just a job; it’s life.

How does the service team work there?

I run the whole operation, from the service to the hotel, reservations, hiring the staff and everything. Next to me there is a gentleman who’s been with me 14 years, Frédéric Poulette, my assistant restaurant manager; then in the dining room I’ve got three Maitres d’hotel of whom two are British of which I’m very proud; then I’ve got three chefs de rang, about five or six commis and then I’ve got a team of five just for the wine and drink. Altogether we number about 16 in the restaurant but we also look after the hotel – the room service, the porter service and early in the mornings we still do all our cleaning and little bits of maintenance in the restaurant; so these waiters need to learn how to clean a floor as well as carve a duck or serve a plate.

The terrace
Diego Masciaga

Many people tell me that serving a plate is very easy, but it depends how you do it – do you just do it with your hands and your brain or do you do it with your heart? It’s a very different thing.

How can you tell if somebody is serving with their heart or just with their brain?

Very quickly. I always say to my guys here, even if you’re just serving pasta or pizza, look in the guest’s eyes; your guest will become your friend; we’re all human beings and at the end of the day we’re all made the same and we all understand when the service is natural and also we understand when the service is just there to make money.

What does your job role entail on a daily basis?

Everyday I’m on the floor. My day starts at nine in the morning and my day stops at one the following morning and from twelve o’clock when the first guests arrive at the door, you will see me on the floor. I very rarely have to reprimand my staff anymore, only look at them. Why? Because I’m on the floor all day; I do carving like they do and clear plates like they do.

>>> Read more from Are You Being Served here

You still clear plates?

I love to clear plates. A few years ago I accompanied Mr Michel Roux OBE to do a promotion in Hong Kong in a three Michelin star restaurant called Le Caprice at the Four Seasons. Mr Roux said, “Diego, why are you cleaning plates?” I replied, “Mr Roux, I’m in China. Nobody knows who is Diego; I can’t just go to a table and say, “I am Diego”; the best way to get to know the guests, to get to know if they really enjoyed the food, is to clear the plates. It’s not degrading, there’s nothing degrading about clearing plates. People who come to me and say, “You are the manager, you shouldn’t clear the plates,” I don’t believe in that. It’s a contact with the guests and also your staff observe you doing it and you gain respect from your team and obviously if you gain respect from your team and you respect them, you win the battle.

What are some of the more special experiences you’ve had in your career?

The highlight of my life was being with Mr Michel Roux OBE at the Kremlin for three days looking after Mr Boris Yeltsin. We’re talking about Moscow 1994. On the day of the party, they gave us a kitchen that was 180 steps away from the dining room. The Kremlin had a kitchen just below the dining room but they didn’t give us that because the Kremlin staff couldn’t believe that somebody from the West could come and look after their prime minister; they couldn’t accept it. Anyway, I was walking along this long, beautiful, marble corridor with a chopping board with a terrine of foie gras on it and there was Mr Yeltsin himself with his entourage. They’d never seen anyone with food in the corridor of the Kremlin so they stopped and I’m sure he was asking the security what I was doing with this food in his corridor, and I’m sure they told him in Russian because they all just smiled at me and let me go, but I’ve never been so embarrassed in my whole life!

What kinds of thing do you do to make guests feel special?

Always be a step below your guest. I’m not saying you have to be like a servant but always try to be a step below. For example if a guest speaks to me about music or theatre or something, I will speak to them about that but I would never let them know that I know more than them. It’s like sometimes you go to a restaurant where the sommelier tries to make the guests feel ignorant – it must be horrible. At the end of the day we go to a restaurant to have a knowledgeable sommelier but there’s no need for that sommelier to make the guests feel they know nothing about wine. It’s my job to make the guests feel good about themselves.

Diego Masciaga
Diego Masciaga

Are you thinking of retiring anytime soon?

No, not at all. I’m 51 now and many people say to me, “Diego, how can you do that?” It’s two shows a day –when the doors open at noon, the show starts and I’m the main actor because there’s so many people who all want to talk to me, all want to say hello to me and I have to give everyone three minutes; I can’t give one table five minutes and another one minute; I can’t give a millionaire ten minutes and Mr Brown, who’s never been here before, 30 seconds - that doesn’t work. So it’s two full shows per day plus my job to do, which is the director and general manager’s job, namely office work, hotel maintenance and so on. But still, I’m not ready to retire yet because I always say to myself – the day I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel like seeing people anymore or pleasing people, that’ll be the day that I have to say, “Diego, basta – enough."

Inspired by Diego's incredible career? Have a look at our jobs board for front of house positions. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th July 2014

Diego Masciaga, General Manager, The Waterside Inn, Bray