27/08/2008 - 22:00

Di Ciano looking to alter perceptions

27/08/2008 - 22:00

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Like many Perth restaurateurs, Maurizio Restaurant proprietor Maurizio Di Ciano believes the hospitality industry has a perception problem with regard to the career options available.

Di Ciano looking to alter perceptions
BACK TO SCHOOL: Maurizio Di Ciano’s hospitality school will teach cooking, waiting and reception skills

Like many Perth restaurateurs, Maurizio Restaurant proprietor Maurizio Di Ciano believes the hospitality industry has a perception problem with regard to the career options available.

So in a move aimed at changing this view, Mr Di Ciano has decided to set up a European-style hospitality school in Perth.

He says he wants to improve the sector's image by creating a hospitality school similar to the one he trained at for five years in the Abruzzo region of Italy.

"It [hospitality] is a career, it is an industry, it's not just a weekend student job; with time the perception change can be done," Mr Di Ciano told Gusto.

"When I was 13 years old, my dad took me to a journey 50 kilometres from home to a beautiful hospitality college and that's where it all started. I studied there for five years and learned everything about the cooking and the service."

The WA hospitality industry, which has long-relied on unskilled labour for its front-of-house staff, has struggled to attract quality workers in recent years, and more so since the mining boom.

Mr Di Ciano says his business, located next door to the Italian Club in North Perth, faced a difficult period when six staff members were lost to the mining industry in the midst of the 2006 summer season.

"We were back to the numbers of staff we had when we opened nine years ago. I had to do cooking and waiting for six months, and train a lot of staff and import people from Europe," he says.

Mr Di Ciano says it remains tough to find locals who want to take on hospitality as a career and to train them to his operations, because of the specificities of Italian food.

"Hospitality and tourism will be the next big industry in the next few decades, and I also see that there are a lot of hospitality colleges around but none of them is teaching Italian food, the current training in place is more general and international," he says.

"Do we want the future of Italian food in Perth to be fast-food pizza/pasta places or should we organise ourselves to organise a hospitality college?

"We need to show the new generation that this is a lifestyle and a career, and we have to market it as a respectful career and teach them really what Italian food is."

Mr Di Ciano went to Italy last February to present his project to local hospitality schools and organise colleges to send their teachers to spend the initial two years in Perth to train local teachers.

He hopes to start with 40 to 50 students for the first few years, and is eyeing a couple of sites for the school, including the first floor of the Italian Club.

The hospitality school will train all its students in cooking, waiting and reception skills.

"At school I started to learn cooking and then I worked on the floor...it is very important for hospitality professionals to have a 360 degrees experience of the industry," says Mr Di Ciano, who wants to work with the state government to finance the new training facility, which will cost about $2 million to set up and open in about two years.

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