People who make Monaco: Serge Mandina
Serge Mandina started his career in 1985 at the Loews Monte-Carlo, now the Fairmont Hotel, then progressed to the Negresco on Nice's Promenade des Anglais. Now he is Chef Concierge at the Métropole Monte Carlo. We asked him about his work and his typical day.
"It's been an ideal career path. I started as a junior – a 'commis' – in a restaurant, before being promoted to the position of junior sommelier, with a specific focus on wines and wine service, and later became a concierge, which has much more to do with guest relations and liaison with all the other departments within the hotel. Now I am Chef Concierge, which means a whole lot more responsibility, including managing a team of assistant concierges, bellboys and valet parking."
Photos by Naneen Rossi
Your role means always having to be polite, even to the most demanding guests. Without naming names, what's been the most memorable or challenging task you 've been asked to perform?
"Once, a guest requested a private jet from Nice airport to Strasbourg. The cost was around €10,000 and the guest settled in cash, handing me the money in a briefcase in €20 and €50 notes; not a demanding guest," laughs Serge, "but certainly unusual! On another occasion, we had to buy one metre of freshly laid grass for a guest because he wanted to practice golf in his suite. And then there was the time we sent a helicopter to Nice airport just to buy a particular newspaper which we couldn't find in Monaco. Small things. But important!"
Tell us something about your normal working day. Do you ever have time for a break?
"Well, we start the day dispatching all the newspapers for our guests, then we go to the post office to deal with the mountain of mail the hotel receives and needs to send. Of course we look after all the luggage and checking-in and out, taking care not only of the valet parking for the hotel guests but also the customers who arrive just for lunch or dinner in one of our restaurants. Later we may be making reservations for the opera, theatre, restaurants or helicopter transfers, and then there are cars to rent, boats, buses for excursions... All in all, we organise absolutely everything that a guest may request.
If it is a busy day, I don't really have time for a break; in fact I always prefer allowing a member of my team to take a break, while I stay at the Concierge Desk. If it is a quieter day and if I have a full team, I might manage a short coffee break."
You are a member of the concierges' club, the Clefs d'Or. What does that mean, exactly, and what does it mean to you personally to be able to wear the 'golden keys' insignia?
"The 'Clefs d’Or' Concierge International Club is an institution, a group of all the concierges in the best hotels all over the world, with a national and international directory. If a guest wants to book something special (a car, a boat, flowers, an opera ticket) anywhere in the world, for example in Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Bueno Aires or Sydney, we just need to call a colleague, a member of the Clefs d’Or, where the guest wants to finalise the request.
We help each other out and by being part of the same organisation, we can rely on each other in terms of quality of service and standards. On a personal level," adds Serge, with evident pride, "it's a real honour to be a member of this institution. “Clef d’Or” is an international distinction, representing the highest level of excellence in our industry. I am very proud to have achieved this."
Photos by Naneen Rossi
Your lifetime of experience in the business makes you well-qualified to answer the question everyone wants to ask: what are the ingredients of an outstanding hotel?
"In my opinion, its interior design and the quality of the service. But but without great service, a beautiful hotel never gets to be a top hotel. At the Métropole Monte-Carlo
, we put a great emphasis on a personalised service, always improving the professionalism of the team, whilst remaining friendly. It’s what we call the 'Luxury Attitude'.
Finally, Serge, as a concierge, you must be completely au fait with all the latest developments and openings in Monaco and environs. What are the current ‘must do’ and ‘must see’ that you would recommend to a discerning guest at the Métropole?
"There are so many things to do and to visit in and around Monaco. Besides the must-do sightseeing - such as the historical part of the city, the Oceanographic Museum, the cathedral, the prince’s palace, the exotic garden (unique in the world with fantastic panoramic views of Monaco and the Mediterranean sea), and the casino - there are lots of cultural activities. Monaco has become an increasingly dynamic country with many art galleries and exhibitions, and a great variety of ballet, theatre and concerts. The New National Museum of Monaco
is also a must, including the Villa Sauber and the Villa Paloma with their current exhibitions.
Port Hercule has become one of the best areas in Monaco to hang out, with a great choice of restaurants, bars and clubs: Before, the newly re-opened La Rascasse
, Black Legend
for live Motown music, the Explorer's
, a new gastro-pub concept. There are also established places such as the Sabor di Vino
, a traditional wine bar, located right next to the hotel, and great traditional Italian restaurants. In terms of restaurants, I would of course always recommend our own – the Joel Robuchon Monte-Carlo
(2 Michelin stars) and Joel Robuchon’s first ever Japanese venture, Yoshi
(1 Michelin star) as priorities. A stay at the Hotel Métropole Monte-Carlo would not be complete without the experience of any of them!