Today I interviewed Manuel, our wonderful floor supervisor that has worked at Elena's L'Etoile for almost twenty years!
Originally from the small town of Tabuasco in Portugal, Manuel moved over to London in 1985. Although he was initially reticent, the promise of a good job was more than enough to sway him. Manuel started out as a comi waiter (someone who brings food from the kitchen to the table) before working as a bar man. Since then he's been working as a supervisor at Elena's L'Etoile for the past 16 years!
Manuel becomes misty eyed when previous manageress Elena, and namesake of our wonderful restaurant, is brought into the conversation.
He tells me the following: 'Elena started work at 14 years of age. She got to know all the customers and shared their secrets with her. She knew everybody and everyone knew her. She, personally, brought a lot of custom to the restaurant'.
Undoubtably this lead to Elena's tenure at L'Etoile being so very long. When asked about his own tenure at Elena's and whether he would ever wish to move on, Manuel's answer is a passionate NO!.
'I love this place!' he exclaims, 'if you're happy with your job, why would you move on?'
When asked why should people go to Elena's, Manuel is emphatic in his reply 'good food and good service - what more could you want?'. Manuel says that the most difficult thing about his job is the long restaurant hours - sometimes as many as 14 hours a day!
'So why do you stay, Manuel?' He answers with the following: 'anyone that works in industry accepts that long work hours are an integral part of it! But when you enjoy it as much as I do, and when you have a restaurant full of happy customers, you are happy and that makes it worthwhile.'
Indeed, Manuel can see himself here for the next 16 years!
Manuel then goes on to explain that Charlotte street has changed a lot in recent years. Many of the old restaurants have closed, and Elena's is the one of the only which still remains. Elena's orignally opened in 1896 and is still here today, over 100 years later.
In addition to his hectic life at Elena's, Manuel is also a father of two children - 10 month old baby boy, Tiago, and 6 year old Gabriel.