He is a five-star guy, dedicated to five-star service.

Hugo Espinosa, ambassador, Dauphin Grille and Langosta Lounge is the ultimate gentleman who can read people with laser-like precision.  Part of Marilyn Schlossbach’s team since 2005, he knows exactly what it will take to make sure you leave the restaurant feeling great.

“If all people could be half of the person Hugo is, the world would be a sincerely more giving place,” said Marilyn Schlossbach, restaurant owner.  “I would do anything for Hugo because he has done so much for my spirit.”

As Espinosa helps to train the new staff at Langosta Lounge in anticipation of the restaurant’s grand “rebirth” on Monday (May 20), I spoke with him about his passion for good service as well as his off-hours compassion.  [more below]

Hugo Espinosa of Dauphin Grill and Langosta Lounge, which will reopen Monday, May 20

Hugo Espinosa of Dauphin Grille and Langosta Lounge, which will reopen Monday, May 20

TBP:  How did you meet Marilyn?

Espinosa:  I came to America in 1970 from living in the Andes in Ecuador and quickly began working at restaurants in New York City.  I worked at some of the best in the city like the El Parador Café, Michael’s and Tavern on the Green.  In 1984, I moved to New Jersey and worked at the Jumping Brook Country Club and Shadowbrook.

I met Marilyn at her restaurant (now closed) on Cookman Avenue and started working with her the next day.

Part of my job is to welcome the customers to make sure everyone eats well and enjoys their time, food and the experience.  Whether they are at Dauphin – managed by Jackie Bacanof – or Langosta, I want the customers to feel at home and welcome every day.  Whether they spend $5 or $300, I will do everything I can to make sure they leave happy.  It makes me happy to see the guests celebrating and smiling.  It is a wonderful thing to dine at a restaurant and I want them to feel special.

I learned all that from the Maître D’ at the five-star El Parador.  He never advertised but people came.  And when they came – whether it was Robert Redford, Al Pacino or someone not from Hollywood – he spoke to them like they were his friends.  He also thanked everyone personally for coming.  This is exactly what I try to do at Dauphin and Langosta and encourage the other staff to do also.

Marilyn feels the same way.  She works so very, very hard to make the customers and the employees feel cared for – genuinely cared for.  I have worked in many places and there is no other boss as good as her.  Not even close.

TBP:  You have tons of fans.  Right now, I am looking at a letter from Major General, US Army Robert Nabor commending you on your professionalism.  What do you do when you are not working?

Espinosa:  I like to watch Barcelona Soccer on television and listen to the music from the 1980’s with my cat Mimi.  I eat healthy to keep me strong and going.  I do not eat a lot of meat.  Mostly fish and vegetables from my garden at home.  I have a beautiful garden that I love to work in all summer.

I like to cater to people.  I worry about my neighbors that are sick or need help.  I know what it is like to have an empty stomach so I share my garden.  I lost my beautiful wife Sylvia five years ago after she was sick for four years so I do what I can to help the people I know.

TBP:  You are a giver and a solid man.  Switching gears, Langosta Lounge will have it’s big re-opening next week.

Espinosa:  Langosta is going to be the best of the best – from the food to the professional service.  The way Marilyn remodeled and made it all new and bigger, Langosta is going to be great all year round and later at night with a larger stage and longer kitchen hours.

There is a new manager with a lot of experience, Daniel Hays, and the new chef, Peter Morris, is fantastic.  I tried all the food.  He listened to the customers when he created the new menu.  It is unbelievably fantastic.  I know everyone will enjoy it.  You must come and try for yourself.

I cannot wait to see the expressions on the customer’s faces when they see everything new and beautiful.  This is a very exciting time.  I love my job.

For more information about the NEW Langosta Lounge (hint, it has an oyster bar, lounge, bigger stage and lots more), click here.  Facebook has up-to date details about the grand opening on Monday, May 20.  For more information about Dauphin Grille in the Berkeley Hotel, click here.  

Read “The Coaster” and “TheBPlot” interview with Schlossbach when Langosta first launched in 2008.