The position of chef remains overwhelmingly male, a fact we wrote about recently in the magazine, but maître d’, the functional boss of the dining room, has been if anything even more so. That’s why the promotion of Maite Montenegro to head maître’ d’ at Daniel this week is so notable. The maître d’ is the ultimate restaurant authority figure, the person that knows how to treat everybody and whom everybody trusts and looks to for guidance.
“I don’t know if there’s a single female maître’ d’ in a fine dining restaurant of this caliber in New York,” Daniel spokeswoman Georgette Farkas tells us. “Maite Montenegro worked for us, and we think she’s the perfect diplomat. She’s in charge of everything from reservation management to all the intricacies of customer service on this level.” Montenegro is stepping into some big shoes: Her predecessor, Markus Drexler, was about as smooth a figure as you can imagine, so adroit a host that he actually called up some of the restaurant’s best customers to let them know that Montenegro was succeeding him. "It’s difficult at times," Montenegro tells us. "We have many customers that can have difficult needs, and we have to make sure they’re happy without sacrificing a four-star level of service." But do they ever doubt her authority? "Sometimes they’re more used to seeing a man in this position, but they’ve known me for a number of years. They respect what I do here."
Related: A Woman’s Place? [NYM]