FOOD & BEVERAGE | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore

Meet the man who brought HK’s premium grill house Wooloomooloo to Singapore

His colleagues describe him as a ‘manager in a waiter’s apron’.

A manager is often perceived as someone in his best suit giving orders to his subordinates but not Noel Emmanuel, the general manager and director of operations for the Wooloomooloo Group in Singapore. Come down to any of the three outlets of the Hong Kong chain restaurant and you might be lucky to find him working on the floor in a waiter’s apron and serving guests.

Managing a restaurant is not in Noel’s bloodline. Noel, 40, has a diploma in business administration and marketing. He started working part-time in the service industry to save up money to further his studies but quickly fell in love with the industry and decided to stay in it. He started from the bottom as a nobody and worked his way up the rank.

Noel began his restaurant career in the 90s at Morton’s of Chicago as a bartender. Within a year he became a bar trainer, converted to service on the floor. He was later sent to Hong Kong to open Morton’s of Chicago’s second international location and trained both the bar and service teams. A year later, Morton’s sent him to Sydney to open their restaurant as he had already become their choice trainer. From a captain at Morton’s of Chicago, he was headhunted to the Grand Hyatt to take on three portfolios: mezza9 (as a restaurant manager), The Martini Bar (as a manager), and the entire Grand Hyatt Hotel (as a beverage manager).

He spent five successful years with the Grand Hyatt Singapore and was eventually headhunted to join the Mandarin Oriental. As the assistant food & beverage director, he oversaw banquets, all the food & beverage restaurants, theatre bars at the esplanade, meetings & events as well as room service for the hotel. In 2009 he was the only trainer invited from Singapore to open the iconic 47-storey Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas’s City Centre.

After five years with the Mandarin Oriental, Noel was hired out of Hong Kong to initiate Wooloomooloo Group’s first international opening in Singapore. His role required him to identify sites, negotiate contracts with landlords, oversee the restaurant's fit-out & kitchen design as well as recruit, train and manage the teams that were to run the restaurants. Since then, he has opened a new restaurant every year for Wooloomooloo and continues to oversee their operations here.

Noel has two passions - diving and cooking. He loves entertaining guests at home and is ever able to dish up restaurant quality food at home with a nifty wine pairing. His love for food and wine has brought him around the world with all of his holidays centered around gastronomy and vineyards. He has eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world and has been hosted by wineries in Champagne, Rhone, Burgundy, Alsace, Penedes, Priorat, Sonoma and Napa Valley. His time as a hotelier had also allowed him to work on events with Anthony Bourdain, the late Santi Santamaria, Xavier Pallicer, Molecular Chef Jeff Ramsey, David Rocco and many other celebrity/Michelin star chefs.  

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