Food and beverage director brings world experience and passion for service to Hollywood Casino ToledoWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc Guastella has managed restaurants at some of the world’s finest hotels and resorts, including the Mandarin Oriental in London, The Peninsula in Chicago and the Bellagio, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Most recently he was director of operations for celebrity chef Michael Mina’s high-end restaurant empire.
Now the 32-year-old South African is bringing his skill and passion for fine-dining service to Hollywood Casino Toledo, where he will manage dining operations as director of food and beverage.
“I was contacted for the opportunity and when I came out here and met with the executive team and all the people who were on board at the time, it just looked like an incredible opportunity,” Guastella said. “The company’s vision, where it’s going, its expansion, just the quality of product is something really special. I thought it would be great to be a part of.”
Guastella and his family — wife Kathryn, son Michael, 3, and daughter Bailey, 1 — moved to Maumee from Las Vegas in December.
“It’s really nice. It’s a great place to raise kids and it looks like there will be great opportunities to do things in the summertime, which we’re kind of experiencing now,” Guastella said. “My wife is originally from the Midwest, Grand Rapids, Mich., so she’s really happy.”
Passion and drive
Casino General Manager Richard St. Jean said he was pleased to recruit a food and beverage director of Guastella’s caliber.
“Marc’s passion and drive for the restaurant and hospitality industry has led him on an international career working alongside some of the world’s most knowledgeable and celebrated chefs,” St. Jean wrote in an email to Toledo Free Press. “I expect that his experience in presentation and service will exceed our guests expectations as he introduces his standards of quality and detail to our guests.”
Guastella was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up in Cape Town. He started his restaurant career shortly after high school, working as a server at The Cape Grace, one of South Africa’s leading hotels. He later moved to London and then the United States, quickly rising through the restaurant management ranks to general manager.
In 2010, he joined the corporate team at Mina Group, where he oversaw all the Mina restaurants and reported directly to Mina. At the time, there were six restaurants, including BOURBON STEAK and SALTWATER at the MGM Grand Detroit. By the time he left, there were about 20 eateries. Guastella was also part of the group that came to Detroit in 2007 to help open the two MGM Grand restaurants.
Guastella said he loved working with Mina Group, but decided to pursue the Toledo job because of his wife and children.
“I was on the road a lot and this just gives an opportunity with my two little ones to kind of settle down in that respect,” Guastella said. “There’s absolutely no animosity there. I have the utmost respect for Michael, his company and his success. It’s a great organization.
“Michael’s a phenomenal person. He’s just unbelievably passionate about what he does. He cares deeply about everybody that works in his organization and fosters their development. He’s an incredible person, an incredible culinarian and an unbelievable restaurateur, hence his success.”
Guastella said the most important lesson he took from Mina Group is its emphasis on unforgettable service.
“There’s a lot of good restaurants, but there’s very few great restaurants,” Guastella said. “It’s an organization that fosters that unbelievable attention to detail and that’s what’s made him a success.”
Four dining options
Hollywood Casino Toledo, slated to open in May, will offer four dining options: Final Cut Steak and Seafood, the Skybox Sports Bar, Epic Buffet and Take 2 Grill.
“This restaurant [Final Cut] is really going to stand head and shoulders above the competition, and the same thing for the sports bar, the buffet and the grill too,” Guastella said. “We really want every single niche we have to stand apart and for people to want to come back.”
Guastella has ambitious goals for the venue, particularly Final Cut, which he hopes can earn a Forbes four-star rating. The designation is rare; there are no Forbes four-star restaurants in Ohio and only one in Michigan — BOURBON STEAK at MGM Grand Detroit.
“The goal is to be the benchmark of service, not only in Toledo but in Ohio and really just be the finest restaurant out there,” Guastella said. “We want to be known as a destination. I want going for a great steak to be synonymous with coming to Final Cut, to get into people’s minds that there’s no alternative, for them to say, ‘This is where we go when it’s a special occasion,’ because the service is going to be amazing, the food is going to be amazing and the experience overall is going to be unforgettable.”
Final Cut, which will feature prime beef and seafood dishes, will be luxurious, but not pretentious, Guastella said.
“It will be an atmosphere where you are completely taken care of from the time you arrive until the time you leave,” Guastella said. “Just an overall luxurious experience from start to finish, but at the same time not at all stuffy. A lot of the time, restaurants that are high-end have a very stuffy label to them. We want guests to feel at ease and just enjoy their experience; we don’t want to intimidate them at all. Partnering great food and great atmosphere is a winning formula.”
One of Guastella’s favorite parts of his job is seeing customers satisfied.
“When somebody comes to a restaurant like this for a special occasion, the satisfaction you get for just blowing them away, where they leave and say, ‘You know what? That was the best dining experience of my life,’ is incredible,” Guastella said. “There’s not many jobs on a day-to-day basis where you can say you can achieve that and really impact somebody’s life positively every day.”