“Directing” events and cocktails: a glance behind the counter
He arranges shifts and purchases, he supervises menus and meetings, and he’s also the Bernini Palace’s Beverage sector quality manager. His name is Franco Crepaldi and he’s a vital cog in the Florentine 5-star hotel’s machine. Here’s what he told us about his job.
Do you remember your first day working at the Bernini Palace?
In 2005 the hotel where I was working, also here in Florence, had to close down. Fewer than 24 hours later, the following afternoon, I was already at the Bernini, at the bar with my new colleagues, ready to discover a new working environment. Four days after that I took a holiday – I’d planned it a long time before – but they had to call me urgently back because they needed a good maître to cover shifts. So I had to dash back, and since then the hotel has been my second home.
Your role as beverage manager involves coordination with the different departments of the hotel. How would you describe your typical day?
I work from behind the counter but I also manage the storeroom in conjunction with our suppliers, purchasing products, selecting wines to enhance the list and planning work inside the hotel. If events are scheduled, I help the management to draw up estimates and have menus printed and translated. I often work on my own, sometimes from home. At the hotel my day begins at 3.30 pm in the bar, then I move to the restaurant, where I share duties with a colleague, then I come back to the bar to oversee after-dinner drinks until the end of my shift.
After 17 years at the Bernini Palace, what’s your favourite memory?
My first event, “God Save The Wine”, organised in 2006, with 300-350 guests. I remember all the very high tension for such an ambitious, complex event, a travelling festival that was stopping off at our hotel. Everything went off exceptionally well, so much so that the event has become a tradition that we repeat every year, improving it every time. It’s a huge human and professional satisfaction to be able as a team to manage every aspect of a gathering like that: the purchasing, the recruitment of extra personnel, relations with the wine cellars and the guests themselves. I feel a similar sensation every time we host gala dinners and weddings.
You must travel yourself sometimes. What is the first thing you notice when you visit hotel bars and restaurants elsewhere? What, in your opinion, should we look out for to recognise good service?
What I notice immediately is the aptitude for client contact: being paid a wage shouldn’t be the only motivation for engaging and interacting with people. Staff who work with real passion transmit a different sensation. Out of professional bias, I pay attention to details such as the table settings and the glasses. I notice if waiters go backwards and forwards without carrying anything or if they’re well organised. And I also take note of good ideas: when I’m travelling, I steal with my eyes. My first aim is to relax, of course, but I can’t help bringing home the odd inspiration for buffets, menus and presentations.
In your opinion, which cocktail or dish can be considered a symbol of the Bernini Palace?
The Gold Martini, which contains everything in a single glass: it has the simplicity of a Martini, the symbol of Italian cocktails, and a luminous baroque touch that evokes the style and atmosphere of the hall. All thanks to the edible gold and the scrupulous preparation. You fill a mixing glass with ice then add a drop of dry Martini. After blending, you discard the dry Martini, which serves only to give the ice aroma. Then you pour in the vodka, blend and pour into a well-chilled glass, and garnish with gold leaf.