Alpana Singh, the sommelier and proprietress of the Boarding House (720 N. Wells St., 312-280-0720), spent ten seasons as the host of WTTW’s Check, Please!, where she shepherded three regular Joes and Josephines per episode to each other’s favorite restaurants. When she started running the Boarding House, the hosting duties became one ball too many to juggle, and she announced her departure about two weeks ago. Here is Singh (condensed and edited), about her time with the show.
“I was called to audition by David Manilow, the creator. ‘Here’s the deal: Would you like to audition?’ I had never auditioned for anything in my life. I thought I was a very unlikely candidate. I had no on-camera experience. But the audition sounded like an interesting thing to do, and I ended up getting it.
“[In one episode,] there was a fashion model named Manase Latu and Fred Solomon. The banter between Manase and Fred was the greatest I ever witnessed. Manase recommended Karyn’s Fresh Corner. Fred had recommended Myron & Phil’s. So they switched. Manase kept saying, ‘If my Nana Feinberg were still alive today, she would love Myron & Phil’s.’ Fred went to Karyn’s and his comment was, ‘We found fire a couple million years ago, and I think they should use it.’ They really liked each other, Manase and Fred. You could tell.
“I watched Check, Please! the other night. I had not seen it for a while. It was really interesting to watch through the prism of being an owner/operator now. I have become much more empathetic to restaurant owners. If I were to continue to host the show, I would be more demanding of the guests to explain themselves and be more defensive of owners in general.
“I look at restaurants that I really enjoyed in the past, and think, I don’t know how you do it. Especially people who have multiple locations and have been doing it for years. Like Paul Kahan, John Colletti [Gibsons], Rob [Katz] and Kevin [Boehm, the owners of the Boka Restaurant Group]. I just want to go over and give them a hug.”
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier Photography