From snagging last-minute reservations at the hottest restaurant to parting the velvet ropes at the most exclusive nightclub, there's nothing Catherine Davids can't do in Chicago. As chief concierge at the Hotel Sax, Davids is responsible for making miracles happen for her well-heeled guests. It's her job to know everything that's going on in the Windy City, and Davids relishes the opportunity to help guests experience it in unique ways. BlackBook spoke with Chicago's star concierge to get a firsthand account of life at the Sax.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where were you born, where did you grow up, and what kinds of things were you into as a kid?
I was born in Chicago, and grew up in the south suburbs. Though I had a conventional suburbian childhood, I was always interested in a more urban sense of art & fashion.
What has your professional background been like? What kinds of jobs did you hold prior to working where you do, and how did they prepare you for what you are doing today?
I was previously a production assistant, and did some editing as well. The direct reason for my shift to hospitality was inspired by running around different cities looking for hard to find items, part of the PA job title.
What attracted to you to the role of concierge?
I loved the smarty pants aspect of the job. The knowing is very seductive. Trying to be up on as much as possible, helping guests with fun and interesting things to do while in Chicago. It is like a sport, with all the blogs, online magazine information etc. on everything and anything.
What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?
I am currently the Chief Concierge at the Sax Hotel and my hotel experience has been exclusively as concierge. The responsibilities are first and foremost to invite guests to see Chicago in interesting and different ways. Check out neighborhoods, use public transportation when advisable, and take home something other than a deep dish pizza.
What is an average day like, if there is such a thing as an average day?
No day is typical. Frankly, I learn something new on a daily basis. A simple question can roll into a tour, such as “where is a dive bar” or “are there any cool restaurants nearby?” The answer is yes, but now let’s make it an excursion. The best guests are the guests who are interested in more than a trolley tour, which is great, but this city has so much more to offer.
What are some of the challenges working as concierge at the Sax? Any extreme guest requests?
The challenges as concierge are handing a guest's “wish list”, and we all have seen them all. It’s so easy to go online to XYZ and choose restaurants, clubs, etc. Many requests can be fulfilled with enough time, some not so much. Extreme guest requests are not as much extreme as time and money driven.
What is the secret to your success? What advice would you give someone who is interested in doing what you do?
I think the secret to the job is loving the diverse opportunities that it offers, I am fortunate to see the place I live through the eyes of travelers from all over the world. As for advice, I would have to say read, read, read. I can’t emphasize how important it is to be aware of openings, closings, hot and not, etc. Obviously, be a great tailor, because one size does not fit all.
Finally, what do you do to relax when you're not working? Any hobbies or leisure activities that keep you balanced amid what must be a pretty hectic schedule?
When I am not working, I generally, practice what I preach in a way, I hit up neighborhoods, I love visiting interesting restaurants, bars, and clubs. In the summer, I’m at Millennium Park for the free music Wed-Sun, or going to street fairs for music. I'm always looking for new material to use on the job.