My first restaurant job was at the host stand of the now-defunct Picholine, and the fact that the old-fashioned breed of fine-dining restaurants is dying (see Le Cirque) fascinates and saddens me. If we’re all going to sit at counters and be served by chefs, who needs a maître d’?
But perhaps all those uncomfortable seats and the nonexistent service is making us hungry, if not for stodgy formality, then for a more genuine, modern hospitality. In a city teeming with restaurants, making a diner feel taken care of is still a rare and special feat.
To find out how it’s done, I spoke to someone who has made a career out of top-level hospitality -- John Winterman. Front-of-house resumes don’t get much more impressive: He worked at Charlie Trotter, Gary Danko, and for nine years as maître d’ of Daniel and Café Boulud. In 2014, he left to open Michelin-starred Bâtard in Tribeca, as managing partner.