We spoke to Matteo Pignatelli, the owner and operator of long-time favourite in Melbourne’s north, Matteo’s Restaurant, to pick his brain on what he thinks about the Australian hospitality industry and why it’s full of opportunity.
Matteo’s incredible hospitality career spans more than 30 years. He is well-respected in industry circles having worked for some of the Melbourne’s best fine dining establishments before opening Matteo’s in 1994.
What do you love most about working in the Australian hospitality industry?
The people. But, not just the customers; I find people who work in hospitality are a breed of their own. From passionate suppliers, winemakers and farmers that are all about quality, to artistic chefs and theatrical front-of-house people, this industry allows them to share their own personalities.
Is there a stand-out experience or travel opportunity that has shaped the direction of your career?
I remember my first serious hospitality experience in 1984 (bear in mind I was working in my parent’s pizza/fish ‘n’chip shop from the age of 10). Mum was working at a restaurant in Carlton (Masani’s - still going) and the owner offered me some bookkeeping and bar work. I loved it so much that I dropped out of uni, enrolled at William Angliss and I have never looked back!
I developed my career by working with industry leaders, Tansy’s and Jacques Reymond to name a few. Initially, I would work for free just to get a foot in the door.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to travel overseas in those early days, but would have loved the opportunity to learn some new skills - hence why I'm so passionate about the Hostplus Scholarship. The things I’ve seen and learnt from my travels in the last 20 years have been an invaluable tool for my growth.
What is your number one tip for young people looking to break into and make their mark on the hospitality industry?
Wow… just one thing? First of all, it’s very easy to get a job in this industry, but make sure you get the right job - one where you’ll learn. Surround yourself with successful people. Be a sponge. Be patient, respectful and humble, but most of all ASK QUESTIONS! To make a mark, be yourself and let your business and style have its own personality. After all, we are in hospitality; the people business!
What do you think is the most common myth or misconception about working in the hospitality industry?
Myth: Terrible hours, overworked and underpaid. Maybe this was true years ago, but the industry has gone through a cultural metamorphosis (and still evolving). The opportunities are abundant, the hours are yours to determine, the flexibility is boundless, and the rewards are endless, both financially and personally.
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