Thursday, April 25, 2024

Hospitality’s game changers

Sixteen rising stars in hospitality in New York by Oliver Estreich


In the first of a series, we profile the up and coming achievers working in hospitality in New York:


Miranda Mancuso:

A lifelong New Yorker and graduate of the Brearley School, Miranda Mancuso’s interest in the hotel industry led her to the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. After graduation, she began her career with André Balazs Properties and is currently director of acquisitions and development. In that role, she focuses on finding and underwriting potential properties, helping to grow the company’s portfolio of boutique hotels. One recent project Mancuso was involved in was the acquisition of the Cooper Square Hotel, which is currently being transformed into the Standard East Village.


Bobby Rossi:

A New York native and Penn State graduate, Rossi has had a long history of brand building and hospitality development under his belt. Currently, Rossi owns and operates No.8 in which has quickly been recognised as an elite venue in New York City. Due to it’s rapid success, further outposts of the brand are being developed in Miami and Las Vegas with his partners, LDV Hospitality. In addition to his venues, Rossi is the principle of two other companies. One is Rossi Marketing Group, a leader in the strategic marketing field, and the other, Headlines & Heroes, an online men’s lifestyle guide that features products and services from an array of categories.


Brian Mazza:

Windsor Custom co-founder Brian Mazza developed an appreciation for the finest in menswear at an early age through his father, who instilled a love of fashion and understanding of quality, cut and design. A native New Yorker, he attended the University of Rhode Island where he majored in communications and dedicated a year to pursue his true passion and studied fashion and art in Florence, Italy at Lorenzo de Medici. When he returned to the States, Mazza accepted a position working in sales at Generra and also merchandised the collection for their top retailers. He subsequently began exploring the hospitality industry at The Paige Management Group where he quickly rose to director of hospitality and soon after became a partner at The Ainsworth and The Fulton, the group’s top-ranked venues. Windsor Custom combines Mazza’s expertise and love of the best in entertainment and dressing.


Christina Civetta:

Civetta started interning at PR Consulting where she had her first real opportunity to see some of the biggest NYFW shows and after-parties come together. It was this behind the scenes rush that sparked her interest. She states she has always have had a passionate love for fashion, art and music and that she loves that to to combine them organising events. Her favourite project was working on Mick Rock’s Exposed book tour, which she did with his manager and one of her close friends, Liz Vap of FeralCat Productions. She launched C2 Worldwide in 2010 with Cole Miller and feels she: “Hasn’t really looked back (or had time to!)” Her company works on partnerships for some of the most exclusive venues in Manhattan. She’s now expanding through the US and globally with brands and venue projects.


David Hart:

A chef who trained in London, David Hart has developed a wealth of diverse experience over the course of 18 years at the highest levels of the restaurant business. Having worked his way to the top in renowned companies, such as Soho House, Claridges Hotel and other well-known London restaurants, he adapted his talents and knowledge of the business to help launch various restaurants and bars in the UK.


In 2004, Hart started his own events company and quickly secured prestigious accounts for the BBC and MTV at both the Monaco Grand Prix and Cannes Film Festival. It was while managing events logistics on board the yacht Annaliesse at Cannes in 2005 that he worked with Richard O’Hagan and the two became firm friends. Hart moved to the US in 2006 to run his own chef training and restaurant consultancy service. As Desmond’s executive chef and operations director, his culinary creativity is matched with significant operational knowledge.


Michael Blum:

Michael Blum has been working in real estate for the better part of ten years. He began on the construction site of a private residence and then worked for several developers and investors including a DC-based company focusing on commercial real estate. After graduating college, he moved to Bombay to co-manage the acquisitions for Crescent Heights, a US-based condo developer/converter. He also spent almost a year between India and Vietnam on residential, commercial and hospitality deals.


In 2009, during his studies for his master’s in real estate development, he found a hotel in the Hamptons to use as his Capstone project for an artsy, boutique hotel. Simultaneously, he tried to acquire the hotel, only to lose out to a far more experienced Sean MacPherson.


After completing his master’s, Blum was hired by a Mexican investor and hotel company, Grupo Habita, to oversee the construction and opening of a boutique hotel in Chelsea, called Hotel Americano. The hotel is on West 27th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. It has 56 rooms, 2 restaurants, and four bars. In addition to acting as a developer, Blum was also in charge of the pre-opening and became general manager, overseeing a team of over 100 employees. Hotel Americano was on Condé Nast’s 2012 Hot List, and won a James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Graphics.


Blum has recently left Hotel Americano to redevelop a hotel and retail project of his own at Texas A&M University.


Michael Stillman:

As the son of one of the country’s leading restaurateurs, Michael Stillman grew up with a unique vantage point on the inner workings of the industry. Michael learned from a young age how artful design, quality ingredients, and creative marketing all play a critical role in attracting and retaining a loyal clientele.


After graduating from Brown University with a double degree in modern and contemporary painting and African-American political theory, Stillman worked for the acclaimed Union Square Hospitality Group before learning the business of The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group from the ground up. After stints in the restaurants’ kitchens and purchasing departments, Stillman played a critical role in the opening of the Smith & Wollensky restaurants in Houston, Dallas, and Boston. During openings, Stillman participated in staff recruitment and training, menu development, and operations. He then led the creation and execution of every aspect of Quality Meats, Park Avenue, and the group’s newest project, The Hurricane Club.


When the proposed merger of The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group closed, Stillman became president of Fourth Wall Restaurants, a New York-based restaurant group that owns, manages, and develops unique restaurant concepts, including Park Avenue, Quality Meats, Maloney & Porcelli, The Post House, The Hurricane Club and Smith & Wollensky New York.


Dana Loia: 

A native New Yorker and the creative force behind Dana’s Bakery. During her career as a photo editor, Loia achieved great success but felt something was missing. Pursuing her passion for baking, she enrolled in the pastry and baking program at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, and graduated with honors.


A pastry advocate and longtime lover of macarons, Loia was surprised by the lack of variety in flavors available. She saw an opportunity to do something no one else was doing and created a line of French macarons that have an American twist.


With flavors like caramel popcorn, thin mint and S’mores to name a few, Dana’s Bakery has received an overwhelming response and is an instant hit among New Yorkers.


Dana’s Bakery is currently sold exclusively in New York City and will launch nationwide in August.


Brandon Freid:

A native New Yorker and graduate of the University of Miami, Brandon Freid joined the Impulsive Group in 2003 where he began his business career managing operations and assets for the Ameritania Hotel in New York City. Freid now oversees the operations and management of the complete Impulsive Group portfolio, which includes Impulsive Charters, which charters yachts around the world, the sophisticated four-star Ameritania Hotel located in Midtown’s Theater District; the Moroccan-themed Marrakech Hotel nestled in the Upper West Side and the award-winning Sanctuary Hotel, also located in the Theater District.


Freid’s mastery of business and finance is coupled with a solid grasp of architecture and design. He plays an instrumental role in the interior design and renovation work of all Impulsive Group properties.  His most recent project was designing The Sanctuary Hotel’s new rooftop lounge and restaurant, Haven, which just opened this month.


Zachary Goldberg:  

Zachary Goldberg was born and raised in Manhattan and entered the world of nightlife at a young age. He attended Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School for high school and continued his college education at Baruch where he graduated with a degree in corporate communications. Goldberg has worked in restaurants ever since he was 16 years old beginning as an assistant maitre’d at Town Restaurant and Blue Water Grill. His first nightlife gig was creating electronic dance music parties, before EDM was cool, at Marquee. When Lavo Nightclub premiered, Goldberg obtained then glamorous position of VIP host.

Vip Manchanda:

One successful restaurant will just be the start of it for Vip Manchanda, who is just getting his feet wet in New York City.


Manchanda worked in nightclubs, bars, and restaurants as a student at the George Washington University and after graduating in 2008 came to New York to pursue his career in finance. That year, he opened Brick NYC. After realising his true passion was in hospitality, he left his finance career in 2009 and has never looked back.


Apparently there are many more projects in the works, and Brick NYC just seems to be the launching pad for this successful restaurateur.


Brick NYC is a two-floor space located in Tribeca and serves modern Italian fare.


Nick Kenner:

Nick Kenner left his job in finance to go into the risky restaurant business with his pal Rob Crespi. Their idea for Just Salad came when they realized there weren’t enough quick, healthy lunch options near their offices in Midtown.


With the help and knowledge of a family friend, chef Laura Pensiero, who developed the menu and created 27 unique dressings, Just Salad opened its doors in 2006. A line of hungry young professionals gathered and Just Salad became a de facto singles scene. The lunch spot was such a hit that Kenner and Crespi were able to open another location only eight months later. Revenue is expected to top $3 million this year.


Nick Cohen:

It’s been said of DJ Nick Cohen: “I don’t know if he’s better known for his skills, the women he’s been with or the sneakers he’s created, but either way if DJing were movies, this kid would be the Australian version of a young Johnny Depp.”


Cohen’s skills are great, but his music selection is better. He is not afraid to play any song and has a knack for understanding what makes women dance. Recent coverage in W Magazine and the following of a really interesting crowd makes Cohen my choice for the next New York DJ to take the crown: “More importantly, whenever he is spinning, the party is very high end. Good energy is hard to bottle and Cohen has a supply for several lifetimes.”


Cohen lost his DJ virginity at Bungalow 8, New York City’s legendary playground for the international jet set. By the time he was old enough to drink legally, he was regularly featured in the many publications which chronicle the movements of the young and influential tastemakers who compose his loyal fan base, such as New York Magazine, Page Six, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily News, Gotham and Hamptons Magazine, to name a few.


Having sharpened his teeth at elite nightclubs and private parties in his native Manhattan and Southampton summer playground, Cohen has in recent years transcended his birthplace and taken the game on the road, headlining marquee gigs coast to coast and across the globe.


In fashion circles they say that you’ve got to know the rules before you can break them. This concept succinctly sums up Cohen’s iconoclastic boundary-breaking and genre-defying style. The hallmark of DJ genius is dropping the track nobody expected to hear and hearing a dull roar of enthusiasm bubble up from the crowd as the dance floor fills to capacity. Whether he’s bumping Nas at a white-tie wedding or throwing on Fleetwood Mac at a hip-hop industry gathering, DJ Nick Cohen keeps their heads ringing and their bodies moving.


His singular sonic signature has everyone from Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld to real estate kingpin Aby Rosen, Stavros Niarchos, Vito Schnabel, Gwen Stefani, Larry Gagosian, Dasha Zhukova, Maria Sharapova and Shady Aftermath Records chief Stuart Parr asking for: “The Nick Cohen sound.”


Having fully earned his stripes through years of residencies at storied venues like Bungalow 8, Marquee, Avenue, 1Oak, Le Bain, Jet East, Pink Elephant, Cain and countless more, Cohen is now available strictly for private functions. In his spare time, he has recently developed, launched, and successfully sold high-end sneaker company Upper Echelon Shoes and is currently working on what promises to be New York’s most exciting new restaurant venture. Stay tuned.


Alexander Ott:  

World-renowned master alchemist, published author, and explorer Alex Ott learned the life of a nomad from his globe-trotting mother and father, a nutritionist, architect and musician, respectively, who exposed young Ott to a vast array of adventures.


From playing with lions in Africa to exploring the Atlas Mountains, surfing with dolphins, and fighting off nature’s elements in the rainforest, Ott learned how to get the most out of life. His journeys provided him with the unique ability to experience the flavors of foreign lands and taste all the fruits of the earth.


Ott began his career in mixology at age fourteen and learned the tricks of the trade under the tutelage of Heiko Beck and Thomas Kothe, owners of one of Europe’s most creative cocktail bars. After getting his bachelor of science in organic chemistry and further cultivating his craft, Alex launched the exotic cocktail menu for the famed Buddha Bar in Paris. The process inspired Alex to delve deeper into the art and science of drink alchemy and to develop his unique approach to infusing fresh fruits, spices, and herbs into elixirs used to stimulate the mind and body.


For the next few years, Ott continued traveling and experiencing foreign cultures, tastes, and scents. After surviving a harrowing plane crash in Thailand in 1998 that killed 101 passengers, Ott had a renewed sense of dedication to all of the passions in his life, including art, surfing, film production, nature preservation, and flavor alchemy. Alexander Ott’s path led him to New York City, where he made a name for himself at the fusion eatery Sushi Samba where he was the first in Manhattan to use the famous muddle stick.


Acclaimed for his unconventional drink mixes, Ott landed roles as himself in the HBO series Sex and the City and earned titles such as “Mixologist of the Year” and “Best Mixologist in America” from national publications for many consecutive years. Since then, Ott has worked and consulted with scientists, flavor houses such as Givaudan, more than fifty major spirits brands, including Svedka Vodka, Gallo Wines and Möet Hennessy. He has created over 290 cocktail menus worldwide, and endless cocktails for high-end establishments and events such as the Oscars, produced Tom Ford fragrances, invented space travel beverages for NASA, and helped conjure the hangover prevention drink MERCY.


From over twenty years of experience in food and drink science, Alex has developed a one-of-a-kind approach to cocktails, now called elixirs and potions. In his upcoming book DR COCKTAIL 50 Spirited infusions for the Body and Mind he shares his knowledge of food science of botanicals, juices, herbs, and spices to awaken and stimulate the world to the effects and benefits of earth’s finest offerings.

Daniel Holzman:

Co-owner and executive chef of The Meatball Shop, Daniel Holzman started his cooking career at age 15 at Le Bernardin in New York City. Working after school and on weekends and holidays, Holzman remained there for 4 years until, at the suggestion of chef Eric Ripert, he attended the Culinary Institute of America with a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation. Prior to graduation, Holzman accepted a position at the soon-to-open Paladin in New York City for chef Jean Louis Paladin, working alongside such culinary notables as Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason.


Six months later Jean Louis Paladin asked Holzman if he would be willing to move to Las Vegas, NV, to fill a vacancy at his flagship restaurant Napa in the Rio Hotel. Accepting the offer, Holzman began what would ultimately become a 10-year culinary journey through some of Los Angeles, and San Francisco’s finest restaurants including The Campton Place, The Fifth Floor, Aqua and Jardinière.


In 2004, Holzman began his first management job as chef of the California organic bistro, Axe, in Venice, Los Angeles. After 1 year at Axe, Holzman was offered and accepted the position of executive chef at the Inn of the Seventh Ray, a 250-seat restaurant in the Topanga hills known for its romantic outdoor setting and lavish weddings. Holzman remained at the Inn until 2007 when he moved to San Francisco to open SPQR, a rustic Roman osteria, as co-owner and executive chef.  Within 3 months of opening SPQR received 3½ out of 4 stars from Michael Bauer in The San Francisco Chronicle, a rating usually reserved for far fancier restaurants.


In 2008, Holzman and three partners founded KB Treats LLC, an ice cream novelty company. KB’s first product, QB’s (crispy rice and marshmallow treats filled with ice cream), were an immediate success and can be found in markets nationwide, including Whole Foods, Giant and Stop and Shop.


Michael Chernow:

Co-owner and general manager of The Meatball Shop, Michael Chernow began his professional restaurant career in 1996 behind the bar of the popular nightclub, Life, on Bleecker Street in New York City.


Learning from the ground up, Chernow quickly worked his way through the ranks becoming the youngest bartender on staff. After 2 years working at both Life in New York and its East Hampton sister club, The Tavern, Chernow signed on to open Woo Lae Oak on Mercer St. in New York City. In 2001, Chernow made the move to Los Angeles where he worked at Woo Lae Oak’s original location on La Cienega Blvd. Returning to New York, he opened Punch and Judy, a wine bar on Clinton Street. In 2002, Frank Prizanzano offered Chernow a position behind the bar of his eponymous flagship restaurant Frank on Second Avenue.


For 7 years, Chernow managed the bar at Frank where he had a large, loyal following. In 2007, Chernow enrolled in the French Culinary Institute (FCI), graduated with honors, and was awarded an associate’s degree in both culinary arts and restaurant management in 2008.


The Steeple Times
The Steeple Times
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