Keepers of the Keys
by Laura Kusnyer and Jonathan Zeller, 02/23/2009
Name: Carlos Freire
Title: Chef Concierge, Trump International Hotel & Tower
Background: Born in Cuba; raised on the Lower East Side
Current home: New Jersey
On hospitality: "I want you to know that wherever it is in this world where you find yourself, there's a concierge you can call—and it's me."
How did you get started in hotels?
I had an uncle who was in the hospitality business. He told me I had to find a job, and he invited me to come work at the Westbury Hotel near Hunter College. At that time I took a job as an elevator operator, and after that I worked as a bellman for a couple of years. Then the concept of the concierge hit the United States. A general manager who believed in me asked if I'd be interested in applying, and I asked him, "What's a con-see-air?" [Laughs] Now I've been with Trump for 12 years, a concierge for about 28 years and in hospitality for about 31 years.
What makes you ideal for the job?
You have to have a passion. I strongly believe that anyone can do what I do, but it's the way that you do it, the relationships that you build with people. I have people call me from all over the world with requests. Calls like, "Carlos, can you pick up my nanny at LaGuardia and make sure she gets to Connecticut on time?" And I do it.
Where do you typically send guests for dinner and entertainment?
One of my favorites is San Pietro on the east side, and, of course, Jean Georges. I also love Balthazar and the SoHo area. I love Pastis in the Meatpacking District. I like BLT Market. For the guests who are celebrating something special in their lives, I love Picholine and Artisanal. I like Bar Boulud, especially if you're going to a performance at Lincoln Center. And if they like to go to Little Italy, there's a little restaurant called Il Cortile—but I always tell them to have dessert and a cappuccino somewhere else. Who doesn't like cannoli? I sure love cannoli. I send them to a coffeehouse—something quiet and low-key, a place to enjoy a wonderful cannoli and a cappuccino.
What was one of the most memorable requests a guest asked of you?
I had a family here—a very well-known celebrity family—and they wanted the Wollman Rink to themselves. Of course we made some phone calls, and they were very generous at the Wollman Rink. They made it happen. It was beautiful and snowing; the hot chocolate was bubbling. That's the magic of it. I have to say, there's magic for every guest that walks into our property.