INTERVIEW: The woman who runs Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – Marianna Femia

Think your job is stressful? Try running one of London’s busiest venues. Here, on ‘a good summer day’ when, if stuck in London, all you wanna do is leave, you are in charge of the bar and restaurant feeding and watering the 2000-odd people visiting Shakespeare’s Globe every day. Throw in a couple of crazy chef’s (anyone who’s worked in the industry knows that is a fact, not slander) and a pair of high heels. Tempting? It sure is to some, and this woman is loving it…

As one of the Directors of Swan at the Globe (the restaurant, bar and events venue linked to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank) Marianna Femia is preparing for yet another record year. This season’s theatre tickets have just come available and she is expecting over 2000 people a day. She says: “If anything goes wrong it’s my neck on the line. It can get very stressful, but I do love my job.”

We are in her Victorian townhouse. Two cats are lurking around with a suspicious look as we sit down at her massive kitchen table. There are papers and folders scattered around and her two Blackberry’s are flashing. At only 31, she has already climbed some ladders. She has just bought this house on her own. She says: “I’ve had the whole thing refurbished, what a nightmare. I ended up in an argument with the builder and he bailed on me, It took ages to find a new guy and I had to finish some of it myself.”

How do you switch off? She hesitates, and says: “Switch off? I don’t.” At the same time one of the Blackberry’s goes off.

Her long black hair is tied aback in a neat ponytail, she has dark but soft features. A characteristic accent reveals her Italian heritage however her English is correct and her vocabulary extensive. It’s hard to believe that when she first came to London some ten years ago she didn’t speak the Language at all.

She has worked her way to the very top of the competitive London restaurant scene. Her first job was at (then famous Japanese restaurant) Oumo. She says: “It was there I learned that nothing but perfection was good enough.”

When asked to share her career secrets she says: “Come up with solutions and not problems. Work hard and be committed. People talk so don’t burn your bridges.” She is smiling although she radiates authority. The other Blackberry goes off and she very gracefully presses the button to ‘ignore’ the call as she keeps talking.

It’s 2012 but most London kitchens are still run by male chefs. When asked what it is like being a woman in such testosterone run environment she says: “Yes, it is a problem that you don’t have a penis. I have had many screaming matches and arguments with chefs in particular. But I don’t think that anyone at my workplace would refer to me as being ‘such a woman’. They know I mean business.”

Five quick-ones:

Favorite food? “Anything my grandmother cooks.”

Favorite London restaurant? “Pulpo in Soho.”

Most famous person you have served? “Jim Carrey, he is actually one of the most attractive men I’ve ever met.”

Tell me a secret? “The Globe is opening a new indoor theatre next year meaning they’ll stay open all year round.”

Finally, if there was a parallel universe, what would you be doing?

The same. I can make a difference to this industry. There is prejudice about it, people can look down on you. I was once someone who didn’t understand why you would want to make a career in this. I’m glad I’m not that person anymore, I would have been a stuck-up bitch.” Her Blackberry rings again. She says: “I do apologise but I really need to take this call.”

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