Remembering Chicago Guest Service Legend Jon Winke


Chicago’s summer is the busiest time for those in the hospitality industry, particularly for a concierge. With an influx of excited visitors to the Windy City, hotels are packed and concierge are working diligently to ensure that guests’ experiences are top-notch through impeccable guest service.

To most hospitality professionals in Chicago, a will to create the best customer experience possible and a passion for guest service is why they entered the hospitality space in the first place. To many, especially Chicago’s concierge community, the name Jon Winke inspires a fabulous story, a bout of laughter, and a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

“Jon’s name was synonymous with service; he was ‘Mr. Ritz-Carlton’. He was adored by his team and the Ritz management as he worked side-by-side with them, always supporting them and ensuring that they had all the tools they needed to be successful,” said Arlene McDermed, concierge at Holiday Inn Mart Plaza. “He led them by example to become a strong, knowledgeable, and sophisticated team, well-respected in the community.”

For 37 years, Jon exuded an energy that can only be found in the most special of hospitality professionals. As Chef Concierge at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago, Jon is remembered by many as an industry leader, for his passion for service, and for the pride he took in his role as Chicago’s premier Chef Concierge. Among his achievements are membership to the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or, and he was in the first ever class of inductees into the Chicago Concierge Hall of Fame –  a testament to Jon’s dedication to his guests, colleagues, and partners.

“I was working at another hotel when Jon announced he was hiring a concierge at one of our Chicago Hotel Concierge Association meetings. I wasn’t looking for a new job as I worked with a concierge team that I loved….but I was inspired by his personality. He represented the best.   After applying and going through a rigorous interview process, I was denied the job only to be encouraged by Jon not to give up. A year later, he convinced me to stay positive and try again. I got the job,” reminisces Laurel Gray, Concierge at the Ritz-Carlton. He was a great mentor.

Jon’s passion for service and his inclusive approach continues to serve as an inspiration to many in the industry, who cite Jon’s ability to connect with others as something to behold.

“I remember Jon with great fondness. As a mentor to many in the concierge community, he was well respected and a unifying force to many concierge in different industries,” said Joyce Fong, Chef Concierge at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. 

Jon left us on June 30, 2013 after complications with cardiovascular disease, but his memory continues to live on in the hearts and minds of those he inspired. “Jon was the ultimate concierge, both in his humble demeanor and his confident professionalism. I am proud to have known him and to have called him my friend. He is truly missed,” said Arlene.

Adds Laurel, “Jon was cool, calm, collected, connected, professional, experienced, creative, comical, smart, kind, patient, a team player, loyal and fair. Jon epitomized the Golden Rule and lived it every day.  He inspired our team to reach for the stars and I am still trying. ”

Jon was a go-to for concierge seeking mentorship, advice, and inspiration, and is fondly remembered for his universal and up-to-the-minute knowledge of Chicago and it’s visitors.

“My dad was the epitome of what a Concierge was suppose to be. He was liked by all for his gentle and kind demeanor and his openness to help and mentor others,” remembers his son Sean Winke, Managing Partner and Director of Client Services at PRYSM Nightclub. “Those new to the industry looked up to my dad because he was truly the Ambassador and 2nd mayor of Chicago. I saw my father as someone who I want to be, a professional, a true gentleman, a great leader and a legend in the city.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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