The Maître D, Ben Mardle

Introducing Maître D & hospo icon Ben Mardle

Where I started: Waiter & cook (aged 15). 
Where I am now: Restaurant Manager at Andiamo.

Anyone who has frequented Andiamo will be familiar with the friendly face of Ben Mardle. As the restaurant manager of Herne Bay’s favourite haunt, Mardle is the man who greets you, seats you and sees to it that you have everything you could possibly need for an enjoyable (and seamless) lunch or dinner out. He’s also the person responsible for keeping the wheels turning behind the scenes too, from restaurant maintenance to staff tastings, menu updates, food deliveries and everything in between, Mardle handles the various day-to-day demands of running a restaurant with an effortless, elegant manner that really does belie the incredible amount of work his role requires. That said, working in this space is something that Mardle seems born to do. He truly loves it, and has since he was 15 years old. 

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“My very first hospo job was when I was 15, and I worked in a little place on Waiheke where it was just me and the chef, sometimes serving up to 90 people,” Mardle tells me. “So I was scrubbing dishes, doing entrees, doing desserts until three o’clock in the morning, and then cycling back home.” For Mardle this early experience piqued his interest, and he continued to work in kitchens and with food until his early twenties, when he decided that perhaps a more front-facing role would be more his speed. 

“When I was about 21 years old, I left the kitchen and ventured into the front-of-house,” he explains. “But it wasn’t until I begged for a job at Otto’s in the Metropolis building that I really got going because I was in the very best place I could be, working with the likes of Mark Wallbank, Phillip Sturm, Blair Russell and Michael Meredith, and that’s where I learnt so much.” 

“When I was 21 years old… I begged for a job at Otto’s… I was in the very best place I could be, working with the likes of  Mark Wallbank, and Michael Meredith, that’s where I learnt so much.”

At Otto’s, Mardle had his eyes opened to the importance of the customer experience, and discovered a new passion in the art of face-to-face service. It was the perfect training ground, he tells me, for what would develop into his life-long career, learning hospitality skills at a high level from the very best in the game. 

After stints in Auckland and Christchurch, Mardle moved to Spain to spend a number of years managing a grand, private household (giving him priceless insight into another side of hospitality management), before returning to New Zealand to take up a post at Euro “Those waiters at Euro were career waiters,” he tells me. “They knew how to run their sections and how to get the best out of their customers and I think that experience really showed me how hospitality could be this amazing career, and something that I could be really ambitious about.”

For Mardle, hospitality has been his world since teenagehood, and it seems that his passion for it has never dwindled. “You can have a very good life in hospo,” he tells me. “ And I’ve loved different things about it over the years.” He pauses, “But I think at this point in my career, it’s all about the people and the connections that I have, and that’s why I love Andiamo because there are so many return customers so we can develop relationships and foster community… I’m really, really happy here.”

If Mardle’s trajectory in hospitality is any indication, it’s clear that this is an industry with unlimited potential for those who are passionate about service, food, wine and people. When I ask Mardle what advice he would give young people with big ambitions in hospo, his response is simple. “Get started and embrace being at the start, because as you go through in your career, that basic knowledge, how to polish cutlery, how to wash a dish, how to run a pass, will enhance what you do later on. Just get in the door and start learning and figuring out what your passion is, there are so many opportunities if you have the right foundations.”

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