Afternoon Tea is a highly social affair, once the domain of the upper classes. This extravagant meal of savoury finger foods, scones and little dessert pastries served with tea has made a comeback in recent times. Afternoon Tea Hostess at The River Lee in Cork is Serena Tesei from Milan. Here Serena talks a little about herself and her role in hosting one of the best meals of the day at this luxury international hotel in Cork city.
When and how do you begin your working day?
I usually start work in the mornings about 7.30am. I set my alarm for an hour before I have to get up so that I can have an extra snooze. I don’t really do breakfast at home, I’m not a breakfast person. I generally walk to work from where I live in Blackpool and when I arrive I might have a hot chocolate. I have a light breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast at about 10am when I take my break.
How did your passion for the hospitality industry begin?
It all started when I got the opportunity to work for Disney World in America as a first job. I had no experience, I just applied for a position and got a job as a waitress. They give the staff a year of training, where everyone learns how to run the kitchen, how to waitress and about good service. Then I ended up working on the front door as a host so that was my first taste of being front of house. From there I worked for three years as an in-flight attendant for Qatar Airways. I got to travel to lots of places - my mum never saw me! I first came to Ireland in 2005 because I wanted to be closer to home to be able to get back to Milano to see my family and I wanted to improve my English. I returned here in 2015 and got the job at The River Lee in Cork.
What gives you the most satisfaction from your job?
I really love my job. Afternoon Tea at The River Lee is a special occasion for every guest. So its great to spend time on the settings and taking care of drinks and special requests. I try to give the guests the best Afternoon Tea experience, whether it's for a baby shower, hen party or a leaving party or just people wanting to enjoy the occasion. I love to see the expressions on their faces when you bring out the lovely food and give really good service. When our guests really show their appreciation that’s a great reward.
Which part of your Job do you like the least?
When I have spent all week polishing cutlery - which is a particularly boring part of my job but a necessary part!
What advice would you give someone looking to get involved in the industry ?
If you have a passion for this industry then ask lots of questions about it from people who work in hospitality. There is no such thing as a stupid question, you will always learn something. Also I would say learn from your colleagues and ask for their advice. Work hard and do your best every day.
If you weren't a doing your current job, what else would you like to be?
I love all the ceremony of Afternoon Tea so if I wasn’t doing that I would probably do another job that involved detail, like maybe a Wedding Planner. But I have no plans to do that any time soon!
Are you A technophile or technophobe?
I don’t depend on technology. Of course I use it but if I can avoid it I will. It’s important to check out competitors on the internet and see what everyone else is doing. It’s also good for keeping in touch with home as well.
What are the daily challenges of your job?
Well I like to be totally organised so there aren’t any surprising challenges during the running of the day. But little challenges do crop up, like when you get last minute bookings or you might be busier than you think you will. That’s part of the job. We serve Afternoon Tea from 2.30pm -4.30pm on The Terrace, but you can book to have it at any time on request. It’s getting very popular now as a special occasion meal. People love the tiered cake stands with all the savoury sandwiches, pastries scones and desserts. Afternoon Tea is really starting to get international recognition at The River Lee. We have lots of Americans and European visitors who want to try it.
How do you manage the work/life balance?
It’s fairly easy for me to manage the balance because I work day shifts. I have my evenings to myself so I may go into Cork for dinner to check out our competition! I am creative so I like to do art courses as well and I recently booked a course making things from wax. Doing creative things is a good way to relax
How do you relax when you get time off?
I don’t do yoga because it is not easy to stop my brain working! I find it very hard to do stuff like that! But I enjoy taking up educational things like maybe doing a wine tasting evening or other hobbies where I learn something.
What Is your guilty pleasure?
Tiramisu! I am Italian and we love our Tiramisu. I love to make it and to eat it!
What’s your favourite Good Food Ireland place to visit?
When I have a day off I like to go to Farmgate Cafe
in The English Market. It’s nice to see everybody working in the market and to try the traditional foods of Ireland.
Afternoon Tea is served daily in the Lobby Lounge from 2.30pm - 4.30pm, where you can watch the river flow by.