by By Kaylee Hultgren | March 01, 2009

twolfe"As a child, I often thought that I would like to be on the other side of the hotel counter..."

This past December, Tom Wolfe, chief concierge of The Fairmont San Francisco, was officially recognized as the very first concierge in the United States by the Northern California Concierge Association and Les Clefs d'Or USA, an international organization of hotel lobby concierges. In addition to founding the position at The Fairmont in 1974, Wolfe has headed guest services at the Hotel New Otani Tokyo and New York City's historic Plaza Hotel.

How has the art of being a concierge changed over the years? When I began, we communicated via telephone, telegrams and telex. We could reach guests only when they were at the hotel. The cell phone has made both the concierge and guests accessible all day long, so I can continue to assist them when they are off property.

What led you to your field?
My father traveled on business internationally. When I was growing up, we would join him for vacations in exotic places such as South America and Mexico. I fell in love with grand hotels. As a child, I often thought that I would like to be on the other side of the hotel counter and make someone else's trip special. While I attended American University in Washington, D.C., I had the honor of working as an office boy for Sen. Robert Kennedy. He was a very gracious man and even invited members of his staff to attend a holiday party at Hickory Hill [in McLean, Va.]. By observing the senator and his interactions with others, I learned the true meaning of diplomacy and protocol.