Chef concierge and new president of WACA (Washington Area Concierge Association), William Hinds, talks his love for D.C., plans for WACA, and gives advice for breaking into the hospitality industry.
Tell us about yourself! How did you get started in the concierge profession? What attracted you to the industry?
After several years as a General Manager of restaurants in New York City I was looking for a career change. I knew several concierges through my time in restaurants and it seemed like being a concierge might be a really interesting career. I loved, and still love, that it is ever changing and requires a passion for knowledge and learning. It is also fundamentally about helping others which is very rewarding.
Within the last few years, you moved to Washington D.C. from New York City. How does the concierge and hospitality world in D.C. differ from New York?
The most striking difference is the size and speed. New York is a much bigger city that moves at a much faster pace. Washington, D.C. is much smaller, slower paced, but still has a great multicultural feel.What do you love most about being a concierge? I feel really fortunate to have a job that is always exciting and challenging.
I love being able to help people make the most of their time here in Washington, D.C.
On the other end of the spectrum, what do you think is the most challenging aspect of being a concierge?
There are many aspects of being a concierge that some may find challenging, but the challenge is to me part of the fun! Being a concierge requires a devotion to your craft and a willingness to never stop learning. Humility and patience are also very important.
As you’ve worked in New York City and in the District, I’m sure you’ve had a lot of interesting requests. Which one comes to mind?
One recent request that comes to mind was for a guest looking for a special 15th wedding anniversary gift for her husband. A 15th anniversary is traditionally aluminum, so it took a little creativity to find something special at the last minute. In the end I found, and she chose, a 1950s vintage airplane propellor. Turns out they had just finished building a new hangar for their plane! I made a giant bow for the propellor and surprised the husband with it at dinner. The gift was a big hit and they used it as a centerpiece for the rest of the dinner. What do you love most about D.C.? I love the history and museums. It is really amazing that there are so many world-class institutions here that you can visit for free.
Let’s talk tourism. Where should every first-time visitor go in D.C.?
My favorite recommendation for all visitors to Washington, D.C. is to go to the Lincoln Memorial at night. To stand on the steps of the memorial and see the Washington Monument reflected in the reflecting pool still takes my breath away.
Although we’re more conservative than New York City, D.C. knows how to have a great time! For someone looking for a night on the town or to celebrate a special occasion, what would you recommend to your guests?
It really depends on the person, but one thing I love to recommend when the weather is nice is to do a little neighborhood “progressive dinner”. I might recommend somewhere for pre-dinner drinks, somewhere for appetizers, a different restaurant for entrees, dessert at yet another place, and then after-dinner drinks elsewhere. It requires a bit of an adventurous guest, but it can be a great way to experience a wide variety of what D.C. has to offer. Plus it is a lot of fun!
What’s the most unusual request you’ve received from a guest?
I get asked this question a lot, but it is always hard to answer. I once had a guest ask me to arrange to have $15,000 worth of caviar along with all of the traditional accoutrements and serving pieces delivered to his room for a very important meeting in an hour. It took a bit of resourcefulness to make that happen in such a short time frame.
Congratulations on your new presidency of WACA! Hailing from NYCAHC (New York City Association of Hotel Concierges), and formerly serving on the Board of Directors, what can members of WACA expect in the new year during your presidency?
I hope to continue the Washington Area Concierge Association’s great history of service to the D.C. concierge community. I feel really fortunate to work with such an esteemed community of concierges and hope to find ways to make membership in WACA even more rewarding for our community and our affiliate partners.
What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the hospitality industry?
I would recommend kindness and a true devotion to service. Practicing these every day is a great way to develop the mindset and genuine personality that leads to success in the hospitality industry. That sense of genuine caring is something that will always serve you well.
When you’re not working to make sure your guests enjoy their trip to D.C., where can we find you?
When it is warm out you will find me in my yard working on my garden or exploring a neighborhood. In the colder months I spend more time in the museums or curled up by the fire with a great book.