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The Gatekeepers: Grayz's George Atterbury

Krieger, 4/28/08

Grayz, Gray Kunz's follow up to his soon to shutter Cafe Gray, opened just last fall and already has a steady following in Midtown. Go for a weekday lunch or a weekend dinner and expect to compete with all manner of fancy out of towners, the expense account crowds, and loyal followers of Mr. Kunz. The man between you and your fancy small plates? The impossibly polite and put together George Atterbury. He's on the front lines to greet you and point you straight to the bar.

George Atterbury, General Manager: We have 120 seats with an additional 14 seats at the bar and cocktail tables. My favorite tables are our Chef Tables, if you like to be in the action. Other great tables are 14, 18, and 20, situated in our Cuvee Room by our exposed wine wall. For a more intimate evening the downstairs "Speakeasy" is great. It's a more seductive area of the restaurant with it being more quiet and romantic.

8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? About an hour and half. If you are willing to sit at our bar or cocktail tables the wait time would be less. Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? We try our best to accommodate everyone. If a guest is willing to be patient we can always find a solution.

...How about gifts or cash to speed things along?

Absolutely not. Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? We have a lot of great guests and hope that we can continue to attract more. As for celebrities and notables, they dine here with relative frequency but we rather not disclose names of our guests. Any Cafe Gray diners make their way to Grayz? Any customers from the Lespinasse days? We do get a lot of loyal Gray Kunz followers from both Café Gray and the days at Lespinasse. Since Grayz is such a unique restaurant concept we have begun to attract such a broad spectrum of customers including younger professionals.

How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? We offer what we have and make notes if they prefer earlier or later options. ...the owner's friends? The owners friends are usually great about calling ahead.

What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? A customer asked if we could pack them food for their flight as they were heading back to Greece. The chefs put together two bags for them to carry on the plane. We delivered them to the Pierre before they left.

...that you couldn't accommodate? A customer wanted to dine with their pet monkey in the restaurant. Literally we had a guest walk into the restaurant hand in hand with a monkey and asked to be seated at the best possible table. I have been witness to a lot of different requests since coming form the Modern but that definitely has topped any request. The monkey was even wearing a little Burberry jacket.

What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Surround yourself with great people. When you're not at Grayz, where are you eating? Momofuku Noodle Bar or at home.