The perfect dining experience is seldom just about the food—and this is clearly showcased and practiced by Thibaud Charlemarty, winner of the MICHELIN Guide Service Award 2022 Presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The 35-year-old Bordeaux native is part of the pre-opening team and restaurant manager of Capella Bangkok’s Côte by Mauro Colagreco, which also received its first MICHELIN Star this year.
After a stint working at Australian vineyards, Charlemarty moved on to hone his exceptional service skills working in top restaurants and hotels across France, Thailand, and Malaysia over the past decade. We caught up with the Frenchman and asked about what he enjoys most as a restaurant manager and what good service means to him.
How did you feel when you found out about getting the Service Award?
“Very happy and very proud. It really is a big bonus because I didn’t expect it at all. Before the award event, I got a call [to attend], and I thought, ‘Okay, maybe the restaurant got something.’ Even until then, I wasn’t even thinking about it! I feel very happy for my team. We say there is no good manager if there is no good team. We really struggled together during the difficult times and finally, we made it. This work is not just me, I’m just the face. We are all very, very happy.”
How did your interest in this industry begin?
“Maybe it’s stupid to say, but I’m French [laughs]. My parents and grandmother would be cooking every day. I wanted to be a chef, but studied tourism management, and ended up in a restaurant! Every weekend and summer, I would work in a restaurant to pay for my studies. So naturally, I stepped into the restaurant industry after. I also have a sommelier background from working in vineyards in Australia.”
What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
“I can say everything. I like to welcome people, clear tables, carry trays. I love to be alive in the restaurant: to jump from table to table, to speak with guests, to fight with chefs sometimes [laughs]. Every day you discover new people and face different situations. It’s a vibrant atmosphere. It’s like a journey—it’s an addiction I need. It’s different every day, and that’s why I’m really glad to do what I’m doing. It’s a never-ending story that is always a surprise and can never get boring.”
What is good service to you?
“Honestly, I don’t care whether you put the fork on the left or the right. For me, the most important service is genuine service and providing guests with the best experience possible to make them happy. Creating memories is important. I emphasise to the team to create memories for the guests. That’s why I encourage chefs to not hesitate to speak to the guests. I even encourage the owner to speak to the guests, so we can create a connection. That’s the most important thing for the front-of-house part, to create memories.”
What is a memorable moment you’ve shared with guests that you are most proud of?
“There are a few, but the best compliment a guest can say to us is that they feel like they are at home. For me, that’s a reward. If guests feel that while in a fine dining atmosphere, where there’s genuine service and authentic food, we are very happy.”
What was the biggest challenge during the pandemic?
“For hotels, it was a catastrophic time, but fortunately, we were not open yet. We should have opened in 2019, so everything was postponed for almost a year. The challenge was to keep the team doing something. The good in the bad was we could keep training. We had to be strong together, and that was all we did every day. It was a difficult situation, but we were rewarded in the end.”
What do you think really sharpened your acumen for hospitality service?
“When I finished my studies, I worked in a lot of restaurants. I saved a lot of money and travelled right after. I just packed my bag and went. I travelled alone for two years around the world and that was the key. I struggled alone sometimes, but I got a lot of experience working in many restaurants and vineyards. I was meeting different and interesting people every day. I think my background comes from there—my education helped too, but it is because I am open to countries and open to everybody. Always be generous, genuine, and sincere.”
What are your future goals?
“All chefs’ goals are to earn three MICHELIN Stars, and I hope to be part of a team that earns that. In the future, maybe I’d open my own restaurant, but it would reflect my identity where it’s more casual. Personally, I love brasserie and bistro cuisine from France. I love traditional French dishes, the sort that my grandmother makes, not fine dining at all! And I don’t say this just because I live in Thailand now, but I really like Thai cuisine too. I like it because every region has their own gastronomy, which is really nice.”
What is the most important thing for you when you eat out?
“For me, the most important thing is a good atmosphere. I go to a lot of places where the food is not always the best, but I’m happy to be there because there is shared conversation, a hi, and goodbye to the guest. That’s why we are really happy to open now because we need these vibes and atmosphere. This is what I am looking for when I go into a restaurant, not just food.”
Hero image: © MICHELIN Guide Thailand