My father worked for many years in 5-star hotels
in Malta, so from a very young age, I was exposed
to the world of hospitality.
When I was 16 years old (ready to start my
Banking studies and career), I got a summer
job as a bartender at the Radisson St. Julian’s,
and very quickly I realised that food & beverage
and hospitality industry is where I truly belong. I
absolutely loved the thrill of it all!
I changed completely my direction of studies
and focused on Hotel Management. At the age
of 18, I got the opportunity to join the Radisson
St. Julian’s as Food & Beverage Coordinator and
after eighteen months, due to my dedication and
hard work, I was promoted to Assistant Food &
Beverage Manager. I was lucky to work alongside
some of the best chefs and managers on the
island, who gave me the solid foundation to my
successful future ahead.
I was always very ambitious and determined to
broaden my horizons and in 2004, at the age of
21, I moved to the magnificent city of London,
one of the best cities in the world for culinary and
hospitality. I started working for the Hilton Group
then moved with one of the most prestigious
food & beverage/hospitality services company in
London, BaxterStorey, where I worked with some
of the most talented people I met in my career.
With BaxterStorey, I managed multiple operations
from high-end events, corporate hospitality, fine
dining alongside Michelin starred chefs, catering
sub-contracting and retail food services. London
was a challenging yet very rewarding experience
where the standards and expectations are like
no other. London will always be very close to my
BACK TO MALTA
After an amazing decade working in this incredible
city, I had the opportunity to move back to Malta
in 2015 as the COO for Catermax, part of the
Corinthia Group. As part of my role, and due to the
experience I gained in London, I was responsible
for managing a number of sub-contracting
catering projects including the Food Faculty brand
at the University of Malta where we truly enhanced
the overall quality and food culture in one of the
busiest and important operations in Malta. During
that time, I also used to travel to Asia a lot and
that’s when I really fell in love with this region, the
culture, the way of life, and of course the amazing
THE JOURNEY TO VIETNAM
In early 2018 I came across a great opportunity
to join the Spanish chain of hotels Meliá Hotels
International as their Director of Food & Beverage
in Hanoi, Vietnam, one of their flagship properties
in the region, which was the bridge to my
hospitality experience in Asia.
Vietnam is a beautiful country, full of history and
very strong traditions, also one of the fastest
growing economies in South East Asia. Locals,
especially the younger generations are extremely open to learn more about Europe
and the diversity of its culture, which brings our
culinary and hospitality style as the new trend in
their daily lives.
After Meliá, I was offered to take over the role
of Business Development Director/CEO for
a new startup project, Casa España in Hanoi,
focusing on the import and distribution of highend
Spanish food products and dining concepts,
with the primary focus to bring the Spanish and
Mediterranean culture of food and beverage to
the whole of Vietnam. From the world famous
Jamón Ibérico to the global popularity of Tapas,
Spain produces some of the best food in the
world so I was so excited to lead this project in
Vietnam. The response was great but one requires
a lot of energy and dedication to really obtain
the engagement with the locals to such a diverse
type of cuisine. I also believe that in a way, there
are great similarities as both cultures have the
‘sharing food culture’ which I strongly feel will be
the future of dining, moving away from less rigid
dining to ‘fun-sharing dining’.
It was so rewarding to mentor young driven
Vietnamese chefs and front of house staff and to
see the brand becoming one of the best dining
destinations in the city for authentic, high-quality
Sake meets Spain’ Team
From left to right: Chef Pedro Goizueta, Michael Iavarone & Baku Takahashi
SAKE MEETS SPAIN
Another passion of mine is Japanese food and
Sake where I have recently started my WSET
studies on this century old tradition. It was from
here that I wanted to create a concept where
different types of amazing Japanese Sake can
be paired with western cuisine, which was never
really done before in Asia. In November 2020, I
was involved in the launch of the first ever ‘SAKE
meets SPAIN’. This was done with the help of my
two good friends: Baku Takahashi from Tokyo-
Japan, undoubtedly one of the most renown
experts and pioneers in Sake education in Vietnam and Chef Pedro Goizueta, responsible for some of the most innovative Spanish culinary fusions in Saigon. We launched the first ever ‘SAKE meets SPAIN’, an event which sees the pairing of various exquisite Sake with outstanding Spanish gastronomy. We held events in both Hanoi and Saigon and everyone was impressed to see how Sake and Spanish food harmonize together!
BONCAFE’ & SEGAFREDO VIETNAM
After the setup of this Casa España project, I was approached earlier this year by Boncafe’ Vietnam to take over the General Manager role for their
operation in Vietnam and support them in re-branding and re-launching of the Italian coffee culture and coffee equipment. Boncafe’ is owned by Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, the founders of Segafredo Zanetti in Italy. Coffee culture was always part of my food & beverage career and having Italian roots and true passion for coffee, I moved to Saigon where the head office is based, excited to join and start this journey representing a global icon for Italian coffee in Asia.
Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world behind Brazil. Vietnamese are very loyal in preserving the coffee culture. My role is to ‘bridge’ the Italian style roasting traditions whilst supporting local coffee bean farmers. I am lucky that our group have a dedicated roasting plant in Vietnam so we work closely with the best local farmers and choose best coffee beans for selective blends of coffee. This gives me the perfect opportunity to offer a diverse range of coffees starting from Vietnamese style to the more classic Italian Espresso blends.
The coffee culture is evolving quickly in Vietnam and, in a truly ‘East meets West’ transition, we can now see Vietnamese coffee served using traditional espresso machines.
Another important aspect in my role with Boncafe’ & Segafredo Vietnam is coffee education. In fact, I am currently working on an exciting project to be launched later this year in collaboration with one of the best Barista Schools in Vietnam. The project involves the promotion of the coffee and barista culture and attracting the young Vietnamese generation to the creative world of coffee.
I feel extremely lucky and proud to be a Maltese living and working in Asia, representing our Mediterranean/European heritage, sharing my true passion and dedication in this amazing country.
I truly encourage young Maltese professionals to follow my steps and embark into such a life and career changing experience!