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The tastiest interview in Tallinn with Food Service Manager Erik-Mattias Raekson
Let's meet Erik-Mattias Raekson, the Food Service Manager at Tallinns Sokos hotels.
Who are you and what is your job?
I've been working in the hotel business all my life. I started as a dishwasher at the age of 19, then became a waiter, then a shift manager and the service manager. I've been the food service manager for the last 15 years, I've opened various restaurants and hotels in Estonia, Latvia, Russia and Finland. I've also worked on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, which are called floating mega-hotels. I studied at the Maritime Academy and EHTE.
As the hotels of Sokos in Tallinn are so far the largest hotel complex where I've managed public restaurants, I would describe it like this: "Until now, I was used to steering 300-metre cruise ships in my work. You give them full steam ahead, the ship gets going and you quickly achieve maximum speed. However, at the moment I'm dealing with a 47-year-old, imposing, 600-metre oil tanker. You give full steam ahead, but nothing happens. You then run to the main engine, you see that it's working, but the ship doesn't move. After a very long wait, you feel the ship shudder a bit and voilà! There may be some movement at last!"
I've sometimes wondered when I should start braking after full steam has finally been achieved, but I want to stop?
Why did you decide to become the food service manager at a hotel?
Viru Hotel has been in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was three years old and walked in the city with my mum, I was in awe of this building that seemed impossibly tall to me.
I see this hotel as one of the several faces of Tallinn. It has 47 years of history and a soul. It's a tall building that is more than a box made of glass a metal, it has a personality. It's a symbol of the hospitality of Tallinn.
Working in this building and applying the knowledge I've gained in my life is a great honour to me. Although there are so many people working here, everyone I've met has been very friendly and helpful, which creates an excellent working environment. Also, one of the understandings of our staff is to be yourself in every situation, and that's certainly what I am here.
What makes a great restaurant experience for you?
Friendly, direct and caring service, and food cooked with heart and soul. Service is particularly important to me and I always do all I can to ensure that our employees are flexible and direct, have a good sense of humour and empathy, and are not afraid to think outside the box.
What is your vision for your food service team?
My vision is that my team and I can offer our guests an unforgettable experience and exceed all of their expectations.
The people who work with me are fun, positive and direct, each of them unique in their own way. In particular, I value the ability to think independently and the courage to make decisions. I want to amplify the positives in each person to create an environment, where we can fully enjoy what we do every day.
What will summer bring to the hotel's restaurants?
One of the biggest news is that the terrace of Amarillo will be replaced with the large Viru terrace this year. Namely, we'll join the forces of the three outlets and create a terrace that will be run by restaurants Amarillo and Fafa's, and night club Café Amigo. A DJ will be playing music there every Friday and Saturday and the experienced barmen of Café Amigo will offer a great show and excellent cocktails.
Of course, all helping hands are welcome during the busy summer season. We always have work for good people. You can take a look at our vacancies here.
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