Gulfer Shah, commonly known as “Chuck”, is a fixture at The Algonquin, a bastion of the hotel who has served some of the most powerful people in New York City. In 1981, Chuck began working at The Algonquin as a waiter in the famed Round Table Room, haven of the legendary “Round Table” where Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, among others, used to swap witticisms. The hotel has never lost its connection to the smart set and the literati have remained avid supporters and patrons throughout the decades. Since 1981, Chuck has served nearly all.
A: Senator Ernest Hollings from South Carolina; pleasant fellow, very nice, very kind. He used to stay at the hotel a lot in the 80's with his wife and would always eat breakfast in the restaurant, loved omelets. Also, Mr. William Shawn editor of The New Yorker, he was always kind and always ordered a dry english muffin for lunch. No matter what, we always reserved the same table for him everyday, the booth in the corner in the shape of the moon. If he didn't come in for lunch, someone from his office always would. But he came most every day for breakfast or lunch until he passed away. Tina Brown came in only for the first year she was editor of The New Yorker and then stopped completely. And Giuliani used to come in a couple times a week before he became mayor. He was very nice, loved oatmeal.
A: Definitely when Boom Boom Mancini was the boxing champion at the time and used to come into the restaurant. One day, we took him on a tour of the kitchen since he was coming in so much and all the employees started cheering. I liked when Mohammed Ali came in also – he always sat sort of off to the side and would quietly order a drink. And my annual favorite memory of working at the hotel is New Year's Eve when the waitstaff cover themselves with tablecloths and bang pots and pans to welcome the New Year. It's not to scare ghosts. I don't believe in that stuff, there are no ghosts in this hotel. It's been a tradition since before my time and will continue after my time.
A: It reminds me of home. Actually, I spend more time here than home. Many of the staff have been here for a long time and many of the guests have been coming for years. It's cozy. I know what the guests like and they don't like. And working in a landmark, very famous people come in. I've waited on the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Onassis, who liked chicken pot pies a lot. I also liked a few weeks ago when a guest from Cleveland came in with a copy of The Washington Post article I was interviewed for and came up to me looking for Chuck Shah. Then he saw my nametag was like, whoa, you are Chuck Shah.
(Recently, Mr. Shah was interviewed on the 100th year anniversary of the hotel for an article in The Washington Post that ran in newspapers throughout the country.)
A: It makes me feel good to celebrate the 100th year anniversary. This hotel is my bread and butter and it is great to celebrate the centennial of the place you work.