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It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time not so long ago when the star in a restaurant wasn’t the chef: it was the maître d’.

Chefs were rarely, if ever, seen by diners, so it was the person managing the front of house who was the celebrity of their day. Having a relationship with them would be critical in securing reservations, the best tables – and possibly, special treatment.

Maître d’ is short for the French phrase maître d’hôtel, a description denoting the “master of the hotel”. It…