Ristorante La Vela’s Michelle Muscat saw great achievements through her years of dedication and ambition in the Food and Beverage industry - from personal entrepreneurial awards to restaurant awards achieved through synergised teamwork, but her 2022 title as President of Malta’s Association of Catering Establishments might very well be her most triumphant to date.
Michelle Muscat, owner of the successful and highly acclaimed Ristorante La Vela, is one of Malta’s most celebrated personalities in the F&B industry and such recognition does not fall upon someone by sheer luck. Rather her determination in the industry allowed her to achieve great success in both her restaurant’s reputation as well as her own.
Ristorante La Vela sits on the Msida Marina, a landmark location where great Sicilian food is served in a serene and unique ambience to give guests an escape from the norm and a dining table away from home. “We opened our doors in December 2008, and right from the get-go I knew that my priorities would be focused towards excellence and full flavours. Our kitchen performs in true Sicilian manner, with bounds of good olive oil, fresh aromatics and delicious ingredient combinations - a practice that La Vela’s Sicilian Chefs know all too well.Our use of locally sourced produce combined with pure Sicilian method is what gives our menu the homely feel we strive for.
And through my efforts in the front of house I ensure that every table is seen to, every order is fulfilled to our highest standards and that every meal is accompanied by the most insightful wine-pairing. These are my passions and my goals for La Vela - good ambience, good food and good wine.
When your passions and goals align there’s no better step to take than to make it your business, and Michelle Muscat’s move from the pedantic world of accounting to the slightly less scripted world of running a successful restaurant could not have been a better transition. “My role at La Vela is simple. I am always very active in the day-to-day running of the business and most importantly during service.
I love being present and interacting with my patrons, catching small exchanges of joy between guests as they enjoy their meals - their happiness makes it all worth it at the end of the day.” Michelle’s exposure to the F&B industry started off almost instantly in her life, with her maternal grandfather’s 1960s influence in Malta’s cafe, bar and restaurant scene namely with Canberra, Britannia Restaurant, Café Premiere and Australia Bar.
“My father, grandfather and all my uncles used to work there so spending insane amounts of time in the industry was unavoidable - especially in the summer months when school was on break. Having grown up in the industry, I was pretty adamant not to work in any eatery of any kind - I knew the long hours and hard work was unavoidable if I entered the restaurant world - so the private sector of finance called my name, although you know how the story ends and the industry called me back to my roots in 2008.”
Michelle’s personal exposure to the F&B industry kicked off with a faint taste in the form of a Valletta wine bar but shortly sprouted into a fully bloomed restaurant takeover in the form of La Vela, a spot that we all know and love. Financial Controller by day and Restaurant Owner by night, Michelle’s alter-ego soon took over - summoning her to take over La Vela completely. And all for good reason! La Vela has been awarded numerous titles throughout the years, claiming the 2017 Best Food, Best Service, Best Wine List and Best Ambience Award during the Definitive(ly) Good Guide gala event, 2019 saw Michelle take hold of the Food and Beverage Entrepreneur of the Year award at the same event and 2021 titled her Malta’s Best Local Businesswoman of the Year.
“Winning an award, or even just being nominated serves as an acknowledgement of our work. Awards recognize the hard work that we do and also boosts morale. To me, it also means visibility and a larger reach for my organisation. It is crucial for any business to gain recognition for its services - this is how we learn and how we grow.
Amongst other benefits, these awards, that I hold very close to my heart, distinguish my restaurant from others, and more importantly, are motivators to me and my team to increase our performance and strive for more! These titles also help with our team’s productivity, employee retention and overall satisfaction in the job.
All of which are necessary for our patrons to enjoy their time at La Vela. When someone in a team receives an award, the whole team benefits - in this case, diners included.”But perhaps, the most triumphant of all titles is Michelle Muscat’s current role; President at ACE, Association of Catering Establishments - and one she takes quite seriously. “This is a very demanding role especially during this period in time where we are just coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and living through the effects and consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war. It is a very difficult time for our industry with the main concerns being staff shortage, both local and foreign as well as an excessive price increase from suppliers. These concerns amongst others are having a great impact on the sustainability of our industry.
Together with other council members, I am trying to be the voice of the catering establishments by bringing forward these concerns and voicing them to relevant authorities in order to find better solutions towards the best way forward.” Some of life’s lessons are learned on the job, in action and usually through challenging experiences - the same goes for Michelle’s success as an entrepreneur in the F&B industry. Her focus on teamwork, leading by example and always showing up, is what she feels are the golden nuggets of her success and they were all imprinted on her by her grandfather.
“My late grandfather played a big role in teaching me the key tools to leading an effective leadership and entrepreneurial role in life - I might not have realised how much this mentality was instilled in me, but my achievements to-date are a clear translation of his wise