Meet the Team

Christian Talpo

Pirata Group | Co-founder

From a small town in the North of Italy, Christian Talpo stepped into the hospitality business working in a hotel with foreign guests that sparked a new-found love of travel, service and languages. With passion and determination, he has garnered over 25 years of experience in the F&B industry, successfully heading up project operations for the Aqua Restaurant Group as well as managing Zuma in Central, and the flagship operations for Gaia Group.   Christian’s adventurous spirit has taken him further than the boundaries of the ordinary businessman, with his morals and virtues evident in everything he is involved with. Christian loves food above all else and has an intrinsic understanding of diverse cultures and their cuisines. His career has seen him head the teams of restaurants ranging from modern-Chinese, Sichuan, Japanese, Spanish, French and Italian.  

Manuel Palacio

Pirata Group | Co-founder and CEO

Pirata Group co-founder Manuel Palacio has a deep rooted passion for quality service. He began his career in hospitality at age 13 in his native Madrid before travelling to both England and the United States to develop his skills at a number of noteworthy establishments. Throughout his service tenure, Manuel has worked at some of the most coveted international hot spots in London, New York, Ibiza and Hong Kong including Floridita and Armani Aqua.

 

Whilst working in Hong Kong, Manuel noticed a gap in the market in terms of service – Western dining, including Italian cuisine, had become almost an intimidating experience for Hong Kong diners due to impersonal and unapproachable service. Committed to providing a deeply personal yet approachable hospitality experience, Manuel decided to open his own concept with a focus on exceptional service and traditional values. Thus Pirata Group was born.

Michael Marlay

Pirata Group | Chief Operating Officer

Michael brings to the Pirata family over three decades of experience building and developing high performance teams across Australia, South East Asia, Japan and the Middle East, with Hong Kong becoming his fourteenth international posting and one that he proudly now calls his second home.

 

A native of Queensland in Australia, he is a proud father of three children himself, now sharing his passion for leadership with the 350 pirates in Pirata Group. He takes pride in helping them to care for each other, so that they can then truly care for our guests. Responsible ultimately for creating and delivering extraordinary memorable guest experiences, you will see Michael passionately engaging with our team members and our guests in our restaurants each and every day. He is the one to call if you have an experience that wasn’t truly memorable.

 

When not moving from restaurant to restaurant, you may see Michael running along the Morning Trial, soaking up a little sun with a good book or seeking out vintage wine to add to his collection.

David Chong

Pirata Group | Financial Controller

David is the Financial Controller of Pirata Group, where he manages the finance, legal and administrative departments. Prior to joining Pirata Group, David spent ten years in finance at Pacific Coffee where he was instrumental in building out many finance support capbilities and function at Pacific Coffee.

Later he joined Gap International Sourcing, where his knowledge and advice has proved invaluable to his business partners. He is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada and a Certified Management Accountant (US).

Eva Lam

Pirata Group | Human Resources Manager

Having graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a master’s degree in Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Eva embarked on her career as a trainer in a non-profit organisation. She provided pre-employment training and career counselling to youth at a school for two years.

 

Prior to joining Pirata Group, Eva spent over 10 years in a Chinese restaurant group in Hong Kong and mainland China, heading up the Hong Kong Human Resources Department. She was responsible for the HR strategy formulation & implementation, performance management and the learning & development initiatives across all 17 brands within the group. Later, she joined a leading soft drink manufacturer in Hong Kong, focusing on people development and succession planning.

 

Eva is a certified facilitator of the psychometric tool DISC. Using her working experiences in the Food & Beverage industry, Eva manages the compensation & benefit team of Pirata Group. Her support is to maintain employee engagement and the relations between the company and its people at an amicable and productive level.

Rachel MacCorquodale

Pirata Group | Recruitment Manager

Rachel graduated from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh with a Masters Degree in Interpreting & Translation. Having worked in bars and restaurants all through her studies, she decided to embark on a career in Hospitality, working first as a Mixologist then as a Manager on Reception and the Floor.

 

Whilst hosting an event in a restaurant, Rachel was offered the opportunity to join the one of the UK’s leading recruitment agencies, specialising in recruiting for Procurement & Supply Chain within Financial Services, Legal and the Public Sector. Within 3 years she was promoted twice to Senior Consultant, and was then headhunted to join a boutique agency in Hong Kong to recruit across APAC.

 

Relocating to Hong Kong in 2017, Rachel came across Pirata Group whilst walking down Hennessy Road and stopping for a Gin & Tonic The Optimist. She immediately felt at home with the warm service she received. Months later she joined the team as Recruitment Manager, focused on attracting the best talent both in Hong Kong and beyond, for our restaurants and support teams.

 

As the first point of contact with prospective team members, Rachel aims to be a positive ambassador for Pirata Group, doing all she can to provide extraordinary memorable experiences for our people.

Andrea Viglione

Pirata Group | Corporate Chef

Andrea’s love for cooking began in Turin at a very young age with a passionate love for the nature of fresh ingredients. Shunning traditional culinary school in favour of real-life experience, Andrea began his professional career cooking in and around Turin at the age of sixteen, focusing predominantly on cuisine from the Piedmont region.

Before long, he opened his own place – part restaurant, part bookshop. After a successful and exciting experience in Italy, he felt the pull of opportunities and unexplored lands. In 2014, he moved to Hong Kong to help Pirata Group launch a new pasta bar concept. Bringing his vast experience to Pici, The Pizza Project and Italian concepts, Andrea lights up the kitchen with his fresh approach and warm energy.

Arturo Melendez

Pirata Group | Peruvian Culinary Director

Hailing from Peru, Chef Arturo’s love of cooking began at an early age when he spent his days with his Grandmother helping her around the kitchen.

 

With a passion for the complexities and multiculturalism of Peruvian cuisine, Arturo was eager to bring the country’s unique recipes, flavours and culture to the world.His travels have brought him to South Africa, Hong Hong, Singapore and finally back to Hong Kong again where he has helmed the kitchen at TokyoLima since March 2017. In 2019, he was made Peruvian Culinary Director at Pirata Group and has since implemented a new dynamic menu at Chifa.

 

Arturo respects the traditional techniques and history behind each recipe, adding his own personal flair for food that makes each dish unforgettable.

Matthew Hosker

Pirata Group | Group Development Chef

Operations Chef Matthew Hosker’s exploratory nature was always certain to take him further afield than his routes in the kitchens of London. After his first taste of kitchen life at the age of 14, he embarked on a culinary journey that has taken him from London through Australia, the USA, Switzerland, Kenya, The British Virgin Islands and on to Hong Kong.

Now heading up the kitchen operations for Pirata Group, Matthew’s belief is that a chef’s time should be focused in the kitchen and proves time and again that simple organisation and efficiency leads to quality. His support to Pirata Groups chefs focuses on reducing the time spent on tasks that distract chefs from what they do best; creating exquisite food to serve to our guests.

Davide Borin

Pirata Group | Executive Chef

Destined for life in the kitchen, Davide spent much of his childhood in a family-run restaurant in his hometown, Treviso, Italy. His passion for Italian food grew alongside his dedication to bring his country’s delicious flavours to the rest of the world. Davide respects traditional techniques and the history behind each dish he creates, as he adds his own spin to keep guests coming back for more.

Having graduated from the Culinary and Hospitality Institute ‘Giuseppe Maffioli’, Davide worked in multiple restaurants in Italy and Dubai before moving to Hong Kong for his next adventure. His role at Pici ensures Davide can showcase the culinary fundamentals that he gleaned from his international experience, enabling him to cook with the integrity and honesty that has been passed on through generations.

Antonino Assenzo

Pirata Group | General Manager

Passionate about hospitality since a young age, General Manager Antonino Assenzo is keen to develop and offer new exceptional dining experience to all of Pirata Group’s guests. Born and raised in Sicily, he started travelling around Italy soon after his Catering and Tourism vocational school graduation to gain experience in hotels and restaurants. He later moved to the UK to expand his knowledge and skills at international level.

 

In London, Antonino built his career working for the restaurants at renowned art galleries and cultural hubs, such as the Tate Modern and the National Gallery. Over a 10-year long experience, he had the opportunity to learn about British and worldwide cuisines, F&B UK regulations, and to understand the key ways to provide the best customer service to local Londoners and tourists. He developed his strong leadership and people skills at work, as well as during his Hospitality Management Degree studies at University of West London.

 

Antonino’s desire to take on new challenges and explore into the industry led him to experience the fine dining world whilst working at the Hakkasan Group. His last adventure before moving to Hong Kong was at a Brazilian Nikkei restaurant. Antonino he is super excited to lead three Pirata Group brands to success, always with passion, a bit of fun, and high professionalism.

Gil Jobic

Pirata Group | General Manager

Originally from France, Gil started his career in the food & beverage industry in London at the age of 20 years old. He developed his craft through experiencing some of London’s top hot spots such as Momo by Mourad Mazouz (Sketch). Gil worked his way into management within the D&D group, looking after Floridita, a 250 seater vibrant live music venue in Soho. Throughout his time with D&D, Gil was also entrusted with the opening of Floridita Madrid (Spain).

 

Gil diversified his skills through integrating the events team at the 5stars Soho Hotel (Firmdale) and specialised in luxury events design & production for several years with prestigious boutique events specialist Bespoke London. Creative by nature, Gil also established Unico UK & Cyprus in 2018, specialising in modern marketing tools for the hospitality, tourism & property development sector.

 

Gil joined Pirata Group in HK in 2019 focusing primarily on the flagship outlet Pirata as well as the group’s second restaurant The Optimist, where he gets to express his passion for people management, business strategy and innovation.

Paul Franklin

Pirata Group | General Manager

With 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Paul Franklin excels in leading restaurant and bar teams. Through meaningful staff training, Paul focuses on equipping his team for success. Under his mentorship, each team member’s personal skills are identified, established and fully utilised, ensuring the success of the outlet.

 

Throughout his illustrious career, Paul has gained experience at celebrated establishments and restaurant groups in London – All Star Lanes, Peyote Restaurants, Rail House Café and Yosma London to name a few. He spearheaded restaurant launches and showed his expertise in operations through path implementation, site recruitment, goal measurement, and design and execution of operating procedures.

 

A motivational and engaging individual, Paul has led numerous teams of excellent staff who not only work tirelessly towards building the restaurant brand, but who do so with a smile on their faces.

 

Paul was brought to Hong Kong in 2019 to helm the capable restaurant teams at Honjo and TMK, two of Pirata Group’s Japanese inspired establishments in Sheung Wan. Constantly up to tackle any challenge that comes his way, Paul took both restaurants’ launches in stride with astute observations, creative solutions and a positive approach towards handling each and every situation.

 

As Multi-Site General Manager for Pirata Group, Paul will work with his team to display fierce dedication towards providing unparalleled hospitality to guests at Honjo and TMK.

Nacho Lopez

Pirata Group | Operations Manager

With a friendly charm and people-loving personality, Pici’s Operations Manager Nacho Lopez ensures every diner feels at home. Starting his career in London, Nacho’s passion for all things hospitality grew after the successful opening of the new dining concept Bilbao Berria. After working with popular Argentinian restaurant Gaucho, he relocated to Hong Kong to lead and train the new restaurant team.

In Hong Kong, he enjoys soaking up the hustle and bustle of the city and delving into the lively food scene. When he’s not busy running the floor at Pici, he spends his time working on his other passion, cooking. A true connoisseur and gastronome, Nacho is textbook for all things food and wine.

Joe Fraser

Pirata Group | Head of Training

With over 10 years of hospitality experience, including management, training and openings, Joe moved from the UK to Hong Kong to head up the Training & Development team in early 2019.

 

His department ensures our newest team members are given the best start in their roles with Pirata Group, as well as challenging and developing the practice of our established teams.

 

Joe’s team are integral to our restaurant openings, from pre-opening training to overseeing concepts in their infancy, they provide a strong foundation from which our projects can flourish.

Justin Tang

Pirata Group | Training Manager

Justin’s life motto is #maximumeffort. He is an enthusiastic Hongkongee who injects his positive vibes into everyone he meets. After studying Screen Acting for Film, Justin decided to swap the stage for the hospitality industry. Moving his way his way up, he spent years with an international restaurant brand opening branches in both Hong Kong & Taiwan.

Touched by a fantastic dining experience as a guest at Pirata, Justin proceeded to enter the world of Pirata Group,  joining the force as a Training Manager. Bouncing around with a big smile, Justin can be found infusing the team with energy to work towards legendary hospitality.

Paul van Rotterdam

Pirata Group | Training Manager

Living most of his life in Amsterdam, Paul made the move to Hong Kong in January 2017. With a background in education, training and sales, combined with a passion for cooking and beer, the move to the F&B industry was a comfortable pick.

 

Being the opening manager of a restaurant in Hong Kong gave him a lot of experience and insights into how the industry works in Hong Kong.

 

Having had the pleasure to try some Pirata Group venues and thoroughly enjoying the overall experiences, it was clear that he wanted to join the team.

Sophie Griffiths

Pirata Group | Head of Guest Relations

As Head of Guest Relations for Pirata Group, Sophie leads the restaurant reception and events teams. Reflecting the Group’s philosophy, she sets the standards for guest experiences and guides her team on how to offer amazing service.

Christina Tang

Pirata Group | Head of Marketing

Christina leads Pirata Group’s Marketing team by planning and managing restaurants campaigns.

 

Using her experience from working in the F&B industry, she strategically spearheads promotional plans.

Norton Agnani

Pirata Group | Art Director

Norton, a Senior Art and Creative Director from Paris, has been passionate about art and creativity since his childhood. Art direction and design came naturally to him while growing up. Ever since he purchased his first computer, Norton has been designing graphics and other pieces of art, as both a hobby and part of his work. As an action sport and BMX rider, he decided to start a clothing brand called LOGO CLOTHING to organise a trip for him and his team across Europe. This very first experience with design and computers pushed him to go further. Having had this experience made him realise that visual communication and design was going to be his career.

 

After 5 years of studying communication and design in Paris, he had the pleasure of working for many prestigious brands such as Melco Resorts, Armani, Dior, Lalique, Elie Saab, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Mumm, Nike, Adidas, PSG, Lenovo, Publicis, Marcel, Heineken, and Lacoste. Norton resides and works in Asia mainly between Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong.

Archie Haig

Pirata Group | Senior Interior Designer

Archie is an experienced designer with a passion for eye catching details, good food, and Italian wines. Having graduated from University of Arts London, she has worked with a variety of top international restaurant groups including Jamie Oliver, and the wildly successful Big Mamma group. Her previous projects include ‘Circolo Populare’ – which was the most Instagrammed restaurant in London last year and has been described as ‘London’s most beautiful restaurant’ by CNN. When she’s not designing restaurants you’re most likely to find her cooking, kickboxing, or else eating or drinking in a restaurant. Having recently moved to Hong Kong she is extremely excited to get to know this fascinating city and to get stuck into the food scene here.

Horacio Moreu

Pirata Group | Development Manager

Having lived in Asia Pacific for the past 12 years, Horacio has worked with well known F&B groups opening restaurants all over China, Japan and Singapore. Born and raised in Madrid, after graduating from engineering school he decided to move to China to look for different cultures and experiences. As the new development manager at Pirata Group, he will spearhead the growth of the company and its most iconic brands, such as Pici and The Pizza Project. Father of one, passionate about food and hospitality, Horacio enjoys playing racket sports and going on motorcycle adventures around the world.

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