Interview: Pierre Rizet Mosser, (June 2019)

Posted on: June 20th, 2019 by Simon Carter

Pierre Rizet Mosser is one of the restaurant industry’s most accomplished hosts. Having been mentored and tutored by the best in the business, Pierre’s natural charm and charisma have wowed guests at each of his career staging posts. Now he seeks to travel abroad but for an hour or so we reminisce about the good times shared by so many, with the host that has befriended us all along the way. Here he speaks with Simon Carter in one of the beautiful summer houses at The Waterside Inn, Bray during June 2019.

Pierre Rizet Mosser

My Burgundian grandma was typical of the region at that time, she had a kitchen garden and cooked vegetables and collected fruit straight from the garden.  I remember helping peel the French Beans as she was preparing for one dinner, on another occasion she was using the pears she had collected to make la tarte bourdaloue  – classic pear and almond tart – so this started to make me love the family experience of cooking and preparing food.  My grandparents used to give my brother and I wine with water, whereas a six years old English boy would perhaps have had a form of squash.  My father worked six days a week and on Sunday he cooked from early in the morning, preparing the family lunch before going to church.  I remember the wonderful smell of caramelized onion, garlic and white wine reduction waking me on a Sunday morning.

After high school I had to choose a direction and decided to enter a four years catering school course at Chateau Chinon in burgundy.  The first two years was both back of house and front of house – restaurant, bedrooms and bar as well as kitchen .  The last two years was a case of specializing in front of house as I really enjoyed meeting people with that sense of theatre and occasion was important. During those final two years I was fortunate to meet the then three Michelin Star chef Marc Meneau of the restaurant L’Espérance located in Saint-Père, Yonne.

Lesperance Restaurant
L’Espérance Restaurant, Saint-Père

I worked there in front of house for three years.  Monsieur Meneau taught me respect for products, quality products prepared properly with love and attention will produce great food and great food cannot be produced any other way.  He also taught me Les Arts de la Tables, the beauty of fine glassware, cutlery and crockery and how they are best presented – the knowledge of food and drink, the arrangement of dishes and guests, the decoration of the table, the ways to receive the guests as a host, the etiquette and presentation of menus.  His wife, Françoise Meneau, taught me about generosity and attention to detail.  She was generous with both the guests and the staff, providing cakes, sweets and ice creams – I particularly remember the summer of 2003 and during the heatwave her going to the shop to buy ice creams for all the staff.  These little touches are always remembered with affection. 

Francoise and Marc Meneau
Françoise and Marc Meneau

At 2am on one Saturday night, Monsieur Meneau took me to his office and offered me a big cigar – He showed me how to light it and then told me I was to move on as I had achieved all I could by following his direction and it was time for me to spread my wings and try something new.  He gave me a Relais & Chateau book and said you tell me where you would like to go and I will send you there.  I chose The Waterside Inn in Bray.  Monsieur Meneau knew Mr Michel Roux well and sure enough, true to his word, there was a position for me to start straight away, so I packed my Peugeot 106 and drove from Burgundy to Bray to start a six and a half year love affair with The Waterside Inn. 

Waterside Outside

I learned so much about consistency, the same quality and experience of food and service had to be provided at The Waterside Inn whether it was a lunch during Royal Ascot or a dinner in late October the guest must always receive a consistent experience – Michel and Robyn Roux, Alain Roux and Diego Masciaga all instilled into me the importance of consistency.   Diego Masciaga taught me how to make guests feel special, how to give a little red carpet to everyone and manage expectation.  He also instilled the need to match the wants of each individual guest with the best you could offer. He showed me how each guest is different and understanding their requirements was key to delivering satisfaction for the restaurant.

Having reached a certain level there was less scope for further development so the time came to make a move to understand more about management.  I found the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire.  Matthew Tomkinson was the chef and in over two years I learned about managing a team of front of house staff which was a great experience. The general manager was Sunil Kanjanghat and he taught me how to manage staff in the correct way, to make them a priority as without the team you cannot look after the guests – so the staff become the internal guest to ensure the operation runs as smoothly as possible and in line with customer objectives. I spent a further two years at The Montagu Arms as Food and Beverage Manager either side of a short spell as restaurant manager at Cliveden House, although a brief experience I learned from Andrew Stembirdge , the group MD, about finance – how a restaurant and hotel are run for profit and how to achieve those goals. 

Montagu Arms
Montagu Arms, Beaulieu

I then spent one year at New Park Manor Hotel in Brockenhurst which had the attraction of catering for the family, children and dog-friendly hotel where I have learned about maintaining high standards in an environment where children expect to eat quickly but the parents still demand the highest quality of product for their children.

Throughout my career, I have had the great pleasure of welcoming returning guests, not just returning guests to a particular establishment but those customers that have followed me to my different employers.  This includes guests from France as well as from Bray and Beaulieu arriving to say hello to me, this is the greatest compliment of all.  I firmly believe that if you give a lot to your guests and you build a form of bond of trust and friendship they will travel to see you and while I take great pleasure in making my guests feel special they make me feel special, too. 

Hospitality as a philosophy for me is to treat guests like part of your family.  Life can be really difficult and challenging so families have their ups and downs and you need to recognise when you need to say sorry or when to help each other.  Likewise when a guest comes into a restaurant you need to do all you can to help them forget about their challenges and make them feel good.  Part of this is taking decisions away from the guest as they have to make decisions in life all the time.  Hospitality from a top end restaurant is about helping the guest to “perhaps have a drink on the terrace” or “more bread” or “more wine.”  This is in the context of reading the guests to ensure you anticipate what the guest needs on an individual basis, as each will be different.

In terms of the team, you need to be able to inspire them to move from point A to point B to point C…, they will look at you like a father and you have the privilege and opportunity to provide them with all the tools to be successful in the restaurant and indeed in life – the more you help the team the more one day they will give it back to you. 

Sandals St Lucia Pierre

The next step for Pierre is later in the year, to start at Sandals St Lucia with the aim to manage a restaurant at the resort and perhaps building a career in that property over a few years.  So, it is time to hit the reset button and to thank all those who have helped, trained, inspired and followed Pierre throughout his career in Britain and France to date.  The longer term future is to run a B&B in Britain for perhaps a decade and then look into luxury boutique hotel ownership, who knows maybe with a restaurant with a Michelin Star. All the best Pierre, you are a true gentleman and no doubt our paths will cross again one day.

Postscript: A special mention to people who left life too early but helped and inspired me in my personal life and career: My Dad, Robyn, Shirley, Mr Perraudin and all the people I forget.