Interview with Stivens Mazzuia, Maître – Sommelier – Room Manager
Stivens Mazzuia class of 1969, esteemed Maitre, Sommelier, Room Manager, Vegetable Carver and professional in the food and wine sector. Bronze medal at the 2020 Italian Artistic Cookery Championships in Rimini. Nationally and internationally recognised expert in the field of Hotellerie and Sommelerie. Business consultant for the reorganisation of hotels, restaurants and public establishments. Teacher trainer at the Lepido Rocco Institute in Pramaggiore, specialising in bar and restaurant service. Member of the national association FISAR (Federazione Italiana Sommelier Albergatori e Ristoratori), which trains professional sommeliers and promotes wine products in the region. National Vice-President of the NOI (New Italian Hospitality) association, mainly made up of hospitality professionals (hall, bar, reception, etc.). The association was set up with the aim of bringing the world of young people into contact with the world of education in order to bring professionalism and experience and pass them on to the new generations. To date, the association has branches in Germany, Switzerland and Miami, as well as in Italy. Currently in the process of obtaining recognition as an Official Taster from the prestigious international association ONAV (Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Vino – National Organisation of Wine Tasters), Stivens Mazzuia holds the position of Board Member at the Venice office, dealing with the management of training courses and web promotion. The association’s activities focus mainly on promoting local wines and analysing the purely technical side of the product. A certificate, that of Official Taster, which allows enrolment in the national register of tasters with the possibility and ability to present the product, describe its organoleptic composition, its special characteristics and the sensations that delight the palate.
Stivens’ entry into the world of work began a long time ago: when he was just a boy, he spent his summers working seasonally at some hotels in Jesolo. Soon his passion grew and directed him towards studies that would lead him to acquire skills and competences to enter the real world of catering and reception service. At the end of his schooling and after his military service, Stivens left Italy and began his professional career abroad, working in England and Germany. A long apprenticeship that saw him working with high level restaurants, increasing his experience in the field and improving his language skills. Upon his return to Italy, Stivens focused his attention on the world of entrepreneurship and the management of successful restaurants. In 2010 he founded the company Easy Food Service, leader in Self Service and Catering. The activity counts more than three hundred seats and six hundred meals a day delivered at home, with a level turnover. In 2013 he sold his creation and began a new experience as a business consultant. From 2013 to 2018 he managed the catering department of the Villaggio Turistico Adriatico (Four Stars) in Jesolo. In 2015 he serves as a training professional at the “Lepido Rocco” Institute based in Caorle. He then joined the teaching staff with a permanent role at the Pramaggiore site in the province of Venice in the hotel and tourism branch. A career spanning more than thirty years, marked by passion, commitment and humility. Values that are fully reflected in the motto that has always distinguished Stivens’ actions: Low Profile, High Performance. A cultural and professional background that Stivens tries to pass on to its students on a daily basis and that today we at www.etichettaveneta.com share with our readers.
Thank you for granting us this interview and for joining the www.etichettaveneta.com project. As you know, we try to get to know our protagonists and share their personal and professional stories so that we can pass on advice and messages that are the result of experience, passion and sacrifice.
Who is Stivens Mazzuia?
I am a 52-year-old man married to Barbara – who is also working in the catering sector – and the father of two wonderful children: Jacopo, who is eighteen years old and is studying robotics at an institute in San Dona’ di Piave, and Emma, who is in her third year of secondary school and intends to continue her studies by enrolling in the scientific high school. I consider myself a quite lucky man and very happy from a family and professional point of view. My family means everything to me and gives me energy and strength in the most difficult situations that life has in store for me. I consider myself to be a very thoughtful person, although this aspect of mine – which is very important today – has developed over time. When I was young, my more sanguine and neurotic side prevailed, but experience and the passage of time have mitigated this side of my being, teaching me calmness, reflection and patience. Qualities that have served me well in my professional life and that I now try to pass on to my children, my students and my staff.
When and how did your passion for food and wine begin?
My passion was born and developed during my school days. I have never been inclined towards manual work that could lead me to technical studies. So I chose to enrol in a hotel school and focus my energies in this area. It was love at first sight. The attraction increased with each year of study. At that time there was no possibility of diversified choices and I immediately chose to work in room service. I felt I was suited to this role, as if I were born to do it. During my years of study I spent my summers working in hotels along the Jesolo coast. Year after year, and service after service, a passion grew within me that pushed me to constantly improve. After graduating, I continued with other specialisations, obtaining the qualification of Sommelier, which is essential for providing excellent service in the dining room. To this day, my passion for food and wine does not tend to wane and still involves me with the same enthusiasm as when it was born. I like to remember a very dear friend of mine, Umberto Scomparin, who is no longer with us, and with whom I shared moments of work and private life that are indelible in my heart. Umberto was able to transmit to me the true passion for wine, its importance and the fundamental role that this “drink of the Gods” plays in the world of catering.
What course of study did you go through to acquire this professionalism?
As I was saying, I graduated from the Elena Cornaro hotel management school in Jesolo with a specialisation in bar service. A course that I was passionate about right from the start. I then attended various professional training courses, always focused on improving my skills. I qualified as a Sommelier, and attended a Master’s course on Weddings planner: a preparatory course for catering services and the management of large events. I became passionate about fruit and vegetable carving techniques by attending specialist courses, perfecting my skills in this discipline, which in 2020 won me a bronze medal at the Italian championships in Rimini. Today I am engaged in an in-depth study to obtain the international qualification of Official Wine Taster at the association of which I am a member: the ONAV (National Organisation of Wine Tasters), which deals mainly with the technical and organoleptic aspects of wine. Unlike the work of the oenologist, the taster studies the evolution of the product, recounts its history, its origin and through a precise and meticulous description describes the sensations it conveys. He accompanies the consumer on a journey through the life of the product and its special characteristics. As you can see, my course of study has never stopped, and today, almost thirty years later, it continues unabated. I am convinced that, as in any profession that requires particular skills, it is necessary and indispensable to keep up to date with new techniques and new products that the market offers us.
Do you remember your first experiences in the world of work?
My first experiences date back to my school days. I spent my summers working in hotels on the Jesolo coast. At that time there weren’t as many technologies as there are today to help room workers. Everything was handwritten and managed directly by the operators. I remember one of my first experiences. I was working with a very dear friend Fabio Teso – now director of an important food catering distribution chain in Jesolo – in a hotel. There were only two of us and we managed to manage a room with more than a hundred covers. I learnt to organise myself, to take care of the client, whom I considered my true ally: his every satisfaction was the reward for my hard work. It was a great experience for young people who were just starting out as we were. The hours of work were endless, but the hard work and sweat pushed us to get better and better. We were hungry: hungry to learn, hungry to learn, hungry to earn our first salaries and almost happy to take on more and more challenges because of our young age. These are undoubtedly stages of life that contribute to professional and character growth and that remain engraved in our memories. After graduating from high school and doing my military service, I decided to leave and go abroad, where I found work in particularly prestigious restaurants, such as the “La Spiga” restaurant in London, then run by Chef Giorgio Locatelli. The English period and then the German period were very important for me. I was able to improve my knowledge of foreign languages and increase my personal experience. Today, a thorough knowledge of foreign languages is fundamental for our young people who are trying to enter the world of work. Our hotels in Veneto have close relations with customers from northern Europe, mainly from Austria and Germany. Therefore, a minimum knowledge of German is essential, as it allows a more professional presentation and a weapon for economic negotiations in favour of the service provider. These early experiences served as my professional and cultural background and allowed me to make a conscious entry into the restaurant and hospitality business, marking my subsequent working years.
What are the difficulties you face in this profession?
As in any other profession, ours also faces some difficult situations. In our profession, customer management is often a very difficult part of the job. The management of the room requires special attention and concentration at peak times must be at the highest level. In my work as a business consultant, I often have to deal with special situations. We are living in particularly difficult times, and often restaurant or hospitality business owners tend not to invest capital in employee training. I think that preparation and professionalism are the key to facing an increasingly uncertain and demanding future. As far as my personal experience is concerned, both as an entrepreneur and as a restaurant manager, the fears and difficulties are always the same. Fear of making mistakes, fear of not living up to expectations, difficulties in management and human relations, choice of products, continuous study of health and hygiene regulations, etc. But thanks to my pugnacious character, I have always tried to embrace the problems that gradually appeared before me. As an entrepreneur, I have always invested heavily in the training of my staff. It is only by being aware of one’s own capabilities and by being well prepared that one can tackle the problems that we experience daily in our profession. This is an important message that I also try to pass on to my children and students.
What has been the most significant experience of your career?
There have been many significant experiences in my professional life, both as an employee and as a freelancer. I owe to each of them all the skills that today enable me to face future challenges with confidence and determination. But what I love most is teaching and training. An adventure that began in 2015 and continues today with the same enthusiasm as then. I get up in the morning happy and content, thinking about the day I will have to face with my students. This experience of my life is giving me so much satisfaction, both from the students and, above all, from their families. I always hear a phrase said by the parents of our students that always fills my heart with joy: “my boy has come in as a boy and today he is coming out as a man“. You see, receiving a compliment like that from a parent is priceless and repays me for all the effort I put in.
What did it teach you?
It has taught me and continues to teach me a lot. The contact with the young people with their insights and ideas gives me a strong message every day: you never stop learning in life. I confront my students openly and leave them free to express themselves without fear of making mistakes. Many times I stop to reflect on their words, their thoughts and even their most extravagant ideas. I compare them with my own professional experiences and realise that combining past and present often results in something very interesting and unique.
How do you choose the products you offer to your clients when acting as a business consultant?
The choice of products is based on a number of very specific assessments. In my work as a business consultant, I often have to study and advise on the use of certain food and wine products. First of all, it is important to understand to whom we are addressing our offer. The target group we want to reach and the “send massage” that our environment wants to send. We can adapt our proposals based on precise and previously researched data, while always paying special attention to the quality of the product: both for the high end and the medium-high and medium-low end. Our national territory offers a vast quantity of food products. Italy, thanks to its geographical position and territorial microclimates, boasts a “food and wine biodiversity” that is unparalleled in the world. Our region, with its wine, dairy and confectionery products, etc., ranging from the Dolomites, through the hills to our plains, is a very clear example. I am currently studying the creation of a wine list made up entirely of Veneto products. There are some lesser-known companies that produce excellent quality products. Most of their sales are exported to foreign markets. It would be important to increase our internal Veneto market by supporting and proposing these excellent products which respond perfectly to the demands of an ever-expanding and increasingly demanding market.
Your work brings you to visit the best wineries in our region. What is the secret to making a good wine product?
Every winery secretly guards the organoleptic characteristics of its product. Fundamental to all of them is surely the care that is devoted to the life of the vineyard. One might think that the climax of the winemaker’s work is concentrated on the final part of the production cycle, i.e. the grape harvest, pressing, fermentation, etc. But one must consider the entire cycle of the vine. But one has to consider the whole cycle of the vine. This time span extends over the whole year and involves many people who follow the development of the plant step by step. They feed it, care for it, grow it and look after it in order to bring it into the desired shape and thus to the best yield. We must not forget, however, the work carried out by the master oenologists who, through their techniques and tricks, shape the wine, giving it body, structure, character and flavour. Finally, the process of ageing the wine, the place of storage and the material chosen all contribute to the final creation of this wonderful drink.
How do you recognise a good quality product?
Everything we want to know about a great wine can be found on its label: the identity card of every wine product. Name of the vine, origin, soil, production method, place of production, producer, etc. are essential elements that must be present on the label. Certainly a minimum of knowledge and research can help us to make a more complete assessment of what we are buying. Then, of course, the real judge of any wine is always our palate.
Maître, sommelier, business consultant, entrepreneur and now also teacher. You mentioned earlier your commitment as a trainer. Can you tell us about your new experience?
As I said before, what I have been doing since 2015 is the best experience of my life. I love training the young people in my school. A new world has opened up to me, a world that was unknown to me before, but which captured me immediately. I was captivated by its charm and the emotions it gives me on a daily basis. I consider training as a mission that involves me completely. I strongly believe in my work and the responsibilities it entails. I feel the weight of the trust that the children’s families place in us teachers and that the students themselves pass on to us. It is a burden that I take on with the utmost serenity and that encourages me to work harder and harder. The thought of being able to influence the future of their lives and the satisfaction of knowing that many of them succeed is priceless.
When talking about your work as a teacher, one cannot help but notice a certain emotion. What is your relationship with your students?
I have a wonderful relationship based on three simple concepts that, at the start of each year, I like to remember: respect, passion and humility. I owe my character growth to them. The training and the relationship with young people moulds us deeply. We must understand the ability to alternate firmness and relaxation to create an essential balance, in a relationship of trust and mutual respect.
Why did you join our project at www.etichettaveneta.com?
I find your project very interesting. Telling the product through the personal and professional stories of those who made the product seems to me to be a very innovative idea. This unusual way of recounting our excellence can convey messages and advice for the new generations. And it’s a bit like what we do in teaching. As happened to me years ago with the school: even today with www.etichettaveneta.com I feel a pull towards this new challenge. A challenge that I accept with pleasure and for which I intend to make a special contribution.
Plans for the future?
Certainly training and teaching. In a short time, our “Lepido Rocco” institute will open a new branch in the town of Portogruaro. It will require the commitment of everyone: teaching staff and administration. I intend to concentrate, together with my colleagues, on this new challenge in order to be able to meet the demands of the new students in the best possible way. I would also like to devote some time to studying and creating in-presence courses on service and wine knowledge. After my participation in the television programme “I soliti ignoti“, as a carver of vegetable products, I decided to also make videos presenting wine products and other activities related to the world of food and wine, to contribute to the dissemination and knowledge of our territorial realities. Finally, I would like to complete my studies to obtain the ONAV international wine taster certificate, deepening my knowledge and skills in the purely technical and sensory aspects of wine.
What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue a professional career like yours?
I can only advise our young people to follow their instincts, their hearts and their passions. Ours is a very important and demanding job. It requires in-depth, continuous and constant study. A detailed knowledge of the product, together with an adequate presentation, is our business card, and that of the establishment we serve. Attending a hotel management school is not just about cooking or serving. Educational, historical, cultural and linguistic skills are just as indispensable for standing out in this profession. The service of the waiter (whom I prefer to call “dining room consultant”) is not limited to just bringing dishes. It is the direct contact with the customer, the communicative and logistical part of the whole reception process. Don’t put yourself down in the face of the fatigue and problems that you will certainly face in your career. Embrace them and respect your work. Make it your reason for living and you will realise that what you call work today, you will call life tomorrow.