Ellen Tang Man-ki worked her way up from waitress to manager at The Mistral, a high-end Italian restaurant at the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, in a career that started with an internship at the five-star hotel while she was still studying at school.
“I studied a certificate in hotel and catering service at IVE [the Institute of Vocational Education] after finishing Form Five. During my time at school, I had the opportunity to intern at the hotel. I was lucky that they had an opening in the F&B department after I graduated and I have not looked back ever since,” she says.
Tang’s busy job, which sees her lead a team of 12 people, has been made easier with support from the hotel. “People management might be the most challenging task in any industry. I am grateful that the hotel has offered me various courses to help me build up my skills as a supervisor. I lead by example, I don’t just give instructions. I work together with my team and stand by with them,” she says.
A typical work day for Tang starts at around 10.30am. She checks her e-mails and meets with other department heads to find out about the day’s happenings at the hotel. She then meets with her team to brief them on service skills and product knowledge. When lunch starts at 11.30am, Tang takes the opportunity to socialise with guests and find out ways to improve the restaurant’s service.
With lunch ending at 3pm and dinner not starting until 6.30pm, Tang makes use of her extended afternoon break to learn Italian to help her gain more insights into Italian culture. Her day usually finishes at around 11pm.
Tang understands the importance of introducing new ideas to keep up with the competition. When she is not at The Mistral, she visits other eateries to look for inspiration to improve her restaurant. “I also read many magazines on food and wine to keep myself up to date with the latest trends in fine dining,” she says.
Tang says it is not easy to get young people to join the F&B industry because of its long hours and tough working environment, but she believes that talent can be attracted by the offering of a good future career. “Many have the impression that serving has no prospects, but this is not true. We offer good prospects and systematic training for our staff to help them build a better future,” she says.
Tang advises young people to have patience and be willing to learn if they want a career in F&B. “The pace in the restaurant is hectic and I correct my staff [when they make mistakes] on the spot. Youths need to understand that,” she says.