Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Maine restaurants. Right now, John Golden, restaurant obsessive and until recently the author of DownEast magazine's The Golden Dish blog, writes about a few of his favorite FOH people, with Michelle Corry of Portland's five fifty-five and Petite Jacqueline at the top of his list.
That notion of "front of the house" savvy is in short supply among Portland's better restaurants when it should be second nature in such a food-centric city. Who's manning the ship comes down to whether the establishment has a chef, proprietor or dedicated manager at the helm.
That good old-fashioned hellohowareyou and the ultimate courtesy of recognition only come about when someone able is in charge to meet and greet the dining public. Instead, even at some of the city's highly regarded establishments, we're often met by a flock of air heads that answer the phone and hand out menus—minions who wouldn't know a regular patron from a serial killer. These well-worn service hacks come and go. I suppose it's the nature of the job.
A few spots in town, though, meet the grade. Back Bay Grill is still one of the city's best-run restaurants where chef-owner Larry Matthews runs the show from his cook's corner. With his long-standing aide-de-camp, maitre d' Adrian Stratton, diners are coddled and cared for by these two professionals who ensure that the dining experience is splendid
The inimitable Fore Street runs like a top, too, with its incredible wait staff, most of whom have been there for years. However, the managerial perch at the front desk has a lot of turnover, and just when we regulars are known by sight and name, someone new comes along.
Ultimately the supreme hostess in town is Michelle Corry, co-owner of five fifty-five with her chef husband Steve Corry. Here are two utterly experienced restaurateurs who give us a fabulous dining experience beyond compare. Michelle is gracious and always well dressed. Warm and cozy all at once, when you're under her spell the dining experience is as good as it gets.
[Photo: 555/Kaper22 blog]