When speaking to Marco Mastrogiovanni, you can’t help but notice his penchant for hospitality – his passion and ambition is palpable. Hearing about his childhood and how he got into the business, there is no doubt that he is a hotelier star in the making. His warm and charming personality is the perfect fit for our Beach House. Here we speak to Marco about what inspires him and the incredible journey that got him to Cayman.
Marco grew up in the countryside of Munich, Germany. At the tender of age of 10, he had an experience that had a major impact in what he would later pursue as his career. He recalls: “What really inspired me to go into hospitality was when my dad took me to visit a friend of his in New York City when I was a little boy. His friend asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I gave him a typical response of a child my age – a super hero like Iron Man! But he said that I would make a good hotelier. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then we took me to the Plaza Hotel in Central Park. It was like a movie when we were sitting in this big majestic restaurant in the lobby. He started explaining to me the different functions of the Front Office, room service and so on and he infiltrated me with that information. From that moment on I never thought, pursued or considered anything but hospitality for my career. This gentleman is still my mentor, now in his 80s and is still working in the industry as a consultant. He is a very valuable person to me. I started in hospitality when I was 17. I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to hospitality and the exciting lifestyle that surrounds it.”
Marco’s drive and dedication are clear from the moment you meet him. He is a person that is going places. He started his career with apprenticeships in New York and Munich before moving to the Kempinski Grand Hotel Heiligendamm. From there he moved to Mallorca, Spain where he held the position of Demi Chef de Bar and Chief Steward at the St. Regis Mardavall. In 2009, Marco moved to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park, London and started as an F&B Management Trainee before working his way up to Assistant Bar Manager in 2011. Marco managed the bar at the Michelin-starred “Dinner by Heston” restaurant by famous UK chef Heston Blumenthal.
In 2013, Marco moved to Grand Cayman taking the position of Assistant Food & Beverage Manager at the Ritz Carlton. Shortly after he was promoted to Food & Beverage Manager of the hotel’s sushi restaurant and lounge, fine dining restaurant and finally the hotel’s pool and beach operation, Bar Jack. In June 2016, he became part of the Beach House team. It is a change that he has embraced with fervor. Working at such high-caliber properties such as the Mandarin Oriental and Ritz Carlton has formed Marco in a way where he is very detailed-focused and is familiar with working in a high pressure and bustling environment. However, Marco praises the Beach House for its community-driven and relaxed atmosphere and compares it to a gathering place where friends and family can spend quality time together.
He explained: “As the Restaurant Manager of Anchor & Den, I feel that I am carrying a great responsibility of providing a different and fresh approach for going out on this island for local clientele and guests alike. Especially because it is a very versatile operation that caters to everyone’s needs and desires. In my case, I really enjoy getting to know people through my job. I am a very personable individual and I love being able to delight them with the many fantastic food and beverage options we have to offer. And Anchor & Den is a very fun place to be! I feel that a growing number of guests – it doesn’t matter their budget or age – want to move away from a stiff luxury environment and instead they want a more laidback and refined ambience where they can feel like they are amongst friends. Here at our Beach House, you still get the feeling that you are in a luxury hotel but you are also getting the laidback style with a much more refined approach. I think this is the key to our success.”
Marco also believes that a major component to Anchor & Den’s appeal is the wonderful people that he works with. He said: “I love working with the team here. In hospitality the rule of thumb is that 51% of your hiring motive should be personality and 49% should be knowledge. The team that we have now really proves this point. Each and everyone of them nurtures and supports the operation of the restaurant. It is such a forward-facing job; you need to have the personality to back it up. You need to be authentic, most importantly have a true passion for this industry. I feel lucky to be working with such great colleagues who embody all of these characteristics."
So with hospitality always being in the cards for him, why did Marco decide to take the F&B route? The answer is simple; he is a true foodie. He said: “I am very connected to everything edible and drinkable. My parents taught me at a very young age to make fresh meals out of local produce and how to look after myself in the kitchen. I never had ‘ready-meals’ until I was 18.” Marco’s passion for food is encapsulated by a quote he shares by a famous restaurateur whom he admires. He elaborated: “Danny Meyer said that 'within moments of being born, you receive the first four gifts of life – a smile, eye contact, food and a hug. We receive many gifts over a course of a lifetime but very few surpass the quality of the first four and it is no surprise that we crave those for the rest of our lives.' And this is exactly what hospitality does. When you dine at a restaurant you get those four things – this is why I think humans naturally crave to go to restaurants and want to receive this type of hospitality. This is what inspires me, to have this creative environment at Anchor & Den for
our guests who decide to spend their valuable time in our establishment. It is our core duty to supply them with just that.”
With the pursuit of one dream well underway, what inspired Marco to move to Cayman? He explained: “It was a childhood dream for me to live and work in the Caribbean. As a 10-year-old I had half of my room’s walls covered with Caribbean beach pictures. I always had a feeling that this is somehow where I belong. I was always attracted to the beach life – the warm and balmy climate. It is very important for me. I am a very active person and I love being outside and there is a huge variety of outdoor sports that I enjoy doing in Cayman such as tennis, diving and kite surfing.”
Marco also highlights the community feel of the island, which he feels is very unique and special. He said: “Cayman ultimately provides a laidback, but productive and modern lifestyle. We have residents from all around the world who are genuinely kind to each other and everyone contributes to enhancing each other’s life. It just happens so naturally here. There is a great sense of community. It feels like a village made of like-minded people. And it is so safe. It feels like everyone here also adopts the Cayman Kind philosophy. Here everyone seems to fall into the same mentality no matter where they come from. It is certainly unique – I have never experienced that before. I feel very special to have Cayman as part of my journey.”
So with the future looking so bright for Marco – what is on the horizon for him? He concludes: “The culinary landscape in Cayman continues to evolve and it is a very exciting time for restaurants on the island. Not only do we have hundreds of wonderful restaurants here, we also have some amazing gastronomic events like the Cayman Cookout, Taste of Cayman, Out of the Kitchen and Cayman Cocktail Week, just to name a few. I love what I do because you I am part of this thriving foodie scene. The concept of Anchor & Den continues to grow strong with a big focus on our philosophy: “Inspired Globally, Sourced Locally.” Our aim is to be more creative then we have ever been. Cayman continues to grow as a destination for the global traveler. I think our guests very much enjoy how we host them and the concept of a Beach House that we deliver to them. We are conveniently located, have beautiful facilities and a fun and cool vibe while still retaining the luxury aspects of a five-star resort. This is what sets us apart from other hotels. We have created our own niche market. There are so many exciting things in the pipeline, not just F&B-wise but with the hotel as well. There are a lot of cutting-edge things that will be happening in the near future. We are going to continue to stay true to our concept while evolving with our creativity.”