Giovanni Valenti began work at the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong 23 years ago - and was probably the first person the likes of Princess Diana and Henry Kissinger saw when they first entered its doors. Today, he is still at the popular executive haunt as the head concierge. But that is 'front-of-house', as those in the business call it. Mr Valenti has been upstaged by two people in the back. In the impossibly small but efficient steam laundry at the landmark hotel are two members of staff who have each been working amid the starch for almost 25 years. Wong Shun Hung and Wong Sun Ming both joined in 1978 and have been in the laundry ever since. That is no mean feat. Sally de Souza, director of communications for the Mandarin Oriental, as it is called today, occasionally runs back-of-house tours for interested local groups or visiting VIPs. On such a tour, the laundry is one of the main attractions. There are 541 rooms and the business-leisure mix is 80-20 - that is a lot of business shirts to iron (many by hand) in a steamy, low-ceilinged room the size of a postage stamp (albeit a fragrant smelling one). As the oldest remaining hotel on Hong Kong Island, the Mandarin Oriental's laundry is just one of the many back rooms found hidden away behind double swing doors and up and down the interior staircase (for staff only). Back-of-house is where it all happens, particularly in the various kitchens, worked in by more than 100 chefs. Top of anyone's list on this tour should be the chocolate room. There are eight people working here, most likely by now oblivious to the sweet-shop aroma that greets you when the door opens. 'It's very labour-intensive,' Ms de Souza said. 'They are all made by hand. The chocolate has to be made and kept at a certain temperature. That's why there is a separate room.' There is also a pastry kitchen, equally as tempting. Tip - do not go on this tour when you are hungry. The Mandarin's pastry chefs make bread, cookies and cakes, starting at 3am and baking three times a day. Of course, there is the main kitchen catering primarily for the Mandarin Grill - a popular business-lunch restaurant - and room service. A road-width corridor leads from the Grill to this ample kitchen, along which waiters carry trays to the restaurant and rows of internal elevators whisk away trolleys for in-room dining. But a lot more than food goes into making the Mandarin a must-stay place for people such as Michael Caine, Kevin Costner, Margaret Thatcher, Irish band The Corrs and, most recently, Britain's Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. As many avid travellers would attest, it is the little things that count. Every morning, management at the hotel get together to discuss the arrival of all VIP guests - what time, where they are from, special requests. 'A lot of hotels do that now, but the Mandarin has always done it,' Ms de Souza said. 'We're very discreet. People know they can come here and they won't be met by the press. We specialise in not making too much of a fuss.' Now is the busiest season for city hotels, with the Mandarin full last week. Many more people pass through, to see, for example, the 25-foot Christmas tree in the lobby. Shipped in from Washington State, the tree was lifted by 20 men from the truck and needed to be wrapped in a bandage-like covering just to get through the door. The hotel itself was finished in 1963, and it is rumoured it was originally designed as an office building. It is not known why the owners decided to make it a hotel instead, although possibly the location had something to do with it. When it was first built, the Mandarin was the tallest building in central Hong Kong - and right on the edge of the harbour. Not so now, on either count. But to this day, it is still considered a central meeting point for first-time visitors and residents alike. 'Hong Kong has changed so much, but this hotel has stayed the same as it was 40 years ago,' said Ms de Souza.