Industry Insiders: Albert Trummer, Apothecary Deluxe

Albert Trummer is the Austrian bar chef and brains behind Chinatown operation Apothéke. With business-minded partner Heather Tierney, Trummer serves his liquid medicine from behind the bar to an eager clientele night after night at the booming corner spot on Doyers Street. While growing up in his family’s restaurant in Austria, Trummer learned his way around the bar and turned his father’s private club into a booming hotspot at the age of 15. He’s since worked for the likes of David Bouley, the Chambers Hotel, Home Bar on Shelter Island, and 60 Thompson. The master mixologist speaks about who does nightlife best, the apothecary premise and his plans for the future. And for a special video clip, he even mixes up his famous flaming inferno beverage for BlackBook’s Cayte Grieve and Eiseley Tauginas.

Who does it right in the business? David Bouley is not just my mentor; he is my idol and the rock star of chefs.

How have you showcased your talent? The biggest event that I did myself was the Music Awards hosted in Miami. I was hired by Louis Vutton/Hennesy. We served 2,000 people in the mansion at the Outkast event. The ordering list was incredible. We made an over 300-gallon special container of mojito for the party. It was empty by the end.

How did you meet Heather Tierney? She had written about me when she worked for Time Out. She had a vision for the place. I always wanted to have a venue with an apothecary concept. In Europe, these places are like Duane Reade. They’re cozy, and you know your pharmacist who writes your prescription. That’s how I feel went we create a drink for someone.

How will you improve the apothecary experience further? My wish list includes creating a healthy alcohol. I’ve been talking to a distiller and doing tests and found that the herbs I use are holistic remedies for some gastro-intestinal problems. It’s a secret formula that I hope to get FDA-approved and produce “Albert’s Remedy.”

Are you looking to open another place? I have many offers. I prefer to be in a hotel, as that’s my background, and they supply the level of facility I require. I’d also like to start the service of having a cocktail butler, where the mixologist goes to your room with assistants, and it is a type of show for the guests. I’d like to have Albert’s Cocktail Theater.

Tell us about Apothéke’s mixologists. Miguel is from Mexico and does Aztec-related drinks, working with Mezcal and tequila. Jack is American and does Savoy-style bourbon drinks. Bourbon is hot right now. Greg is a specialist in Italian bitters. Orson is from Venezuela and brings the Amazon and rain forest.

Any house secrets you can share? I ship the herbs and oils from all over the world, and we soak our limes with sugarcane.

Is the recession affecting you? My grandfather said this is a safe business. Even in this economy, people still eat and drink all the time. People still need entertainment.

Where do you eat and drink? I always go to a Bouley or Daniel Boulud’s restaurant. The food is fantastic, and there are no shortcuts. I also really like Da Silvano, and Smith and Mills takes pride in their drinks.

Are you doing any special events this year? Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday party in July. I’m creating the drink called The Mandela, which is based on African herbs and elderflower. The host is Bill Clinton.

Favorite authors? Ernest Hemingway and Jack London.

What is something people don’t know about you? I think David Copperfield is a great entertainer.

Favorite artist? Salvador Dali.

Is there a city that does nightlife better than New York? I’ve traveled all over the world, and none of them can compete with New York.

Why? The variety of cocktails. The master chefs from around the world work here.

Anything we could do to improve nightlife in New York? It’s missing intimate music clubs that they have in LA. Places where someone like Sting is recording. It’s a great part of the music scene there. New York needs smaller, more sophisticated music venues.
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Industry Insiders: Bob Giraldi, Film & Food Director

At the peak of a successful directing career, Bob Giraldi — the creative genius behind Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video — channeled his talents for creation into the culinary scene, resulting in collaborations with famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and a slew of successful restaurants. After the February opening of Butcher Bay, his ode to Americana and boardwalk food, Giraldi is focusing his energy on his new, “authentic” Italian-style pizza joint Tonda, in the East Village.

How did you make the jump from film into the restaurant business? I started in the middle 80s, before it was fashionable, because it seemed to me that the food business was almost the same as the film business. That coupled with the fact that I came from a home where my mother and father were really quite exceptional cooks. My mom was really quite accomplished; she taught cooking classes and studied with good Italian chefs and teachers. Food had always been the basic language of my family, so that combined with the fact that I was already in the media business and understood the idea of setting up, helped. It’s like setting up for a show every night — the waiters get into wardrobe, they go out and perform as actors and actresses, you get reviewed the next day, and then your run is completely commensurate with your performance. Today the whole food scene is completely different than when I started; chefs are stars, food shows are popular, so I’m not sure if we were doing it right, but we sure timed it right. What was your first restaurant? I was coming off some success as a music video director and was anxious to get into the culinary scene, so we opened a restaurant called Positano, named after the city in the Campania region of Italy. At that time it was one of the few, if not the only, restaurant in New York that offered Amalfi Coast, Campania regional food. There had always been Northern and Southern Italian food, but there wasn’t a lot of the Coastal and Central Italian food represented — clams on the half shell, fried calamari, and all those dishes inspired by the Mediterranean. So we did it then, and it caught on, and then we started a company called Once Is Not Enough because we knew that one restaurant wasn’t going to be enough. What are you working on currently? I’m opening a pizzeria on March 21, called Tonda, which means “round” in Italian. It will be in the old EU space on 4th Street, and Luigi Commandatore, who co-owns Bread Tribeca with me, is my partner. It’s the food people want right now and are buying in the economy, but it’s also very hip. In Italy a pizzeria is a casual restaurant where you can have other foods, but they take their pizza very seriously in Italy. We eat a lot of pizza in New York, but it’s made all over by a lot of different people, and it’s not made properly — in my own and in an Italian’s opinion. We brought in a chef from Naples, and his approach is world-class Neapolitan, which is where pizza is generally regarded as the best in the world. We’re going to try and give people in the East Village a really superior product. Let’s face it — you can go anywhere on a street corner and order pizza in New York City, but it’s usually made by many cultures, and it’s not made the way you make it in Italy. So Tonda’s unique factor is that it will be truly authentic Italian pizza? Yes, truly Italian. This love of food and restaurants has lead me all the way around my roots and back to the most basic of Italian foods, which is pizza, and that’s the beauty of the business. Most pizza is good — it’s bread and tomato sauce after all — but that’s just good, and I’m talking about great. The vibe will still be very East Village; it’s cool, and the space is really chill and wonderful, but it’s about the product. We’ve got ourselves a wonderful new technology — a pizza oven which rotates at a really high temperature, 1,000 degrees, and it only takes about 3 minutes for each pie to be fully cooked. We will serve 12-inch pies, nothing bigger, nothing smaller, and no slices. It will be whole, thin-crusted pies. In Italy, the way they eat them is two and three at a time.

Are all of your restaurants Italian-themed? The restaurants I enjoy the most are Italian — I have three Italian restaurants in Lower Manhattan and Tribeca where I go most of the time because that’s where I live — but I also have a Mexican restaurant in the West Village, and I just opened Butcher Bay on 5th Street about two weeks ago. Butcher Bay is a very casual restaurant that pays homage to boardwalk, handheld, and Americana food. . You’ve opened successful restaurants with Jean-Georges Vongerichten; how did you end up working together? Jean-Georges came to us when we were just starting out as restaurateurs. He is a wonderful chef who had just enjoyed success at Lafayette, a five-star restaurant in a hotel on Park Avenue; he got to know my partner and asked if we would be interested in backing him if he branched out on his own. We tasted his food, and he is truly a gifted chef, no question about it (probably the best of all chefs in America today in my opinion), so we opened JoJo together on the UES, and the rest is history. What are the most important ingredients for creating a successful restaurant? There is no formula, and anybody who says there is, is wrong. There are some tried-and-true things that might work, but don’t bet on it. I would say that the food is the number one foremost reason why people come back to a certain restaurant. They come back for the vibe, convenience, and a lot of reasons, but the number one reason is for good food. It’s more important that who owns it or who’s seen there. Food is paramount.

Is designing a restaurant similar to setting up for a film shoot? Yeah, that’s the fun part, especially if you’re doing casual. The fun to me is when you’re converting an old building or an old space, or you’re breathing new life into a space. I’m a man who has built sets for a lot of his life, and it works exactly the same way in the restaurant business, except that ours is not faux like in the film business. It’s got to work; it’s got to be functional. The more casual and funky, the more I love it.

Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? I respect the success, genius, and creativeness of certain chefs, the Mario Batalis, David Bouleys, etc., and there are some restaurateurs whose success I admire. But while I’m inspired, I don’t really try to emulate them. The successes are always different. For example, my success has now become a real casual sensibility; I’m no longer interested in a sophisticated fine dining … it’s too complicated, too expensive, and the chefs get to be a bit of a pain. I’m more interested in neighborhood-style casual dining. I don’t get too caught up in the food world … a lot of people don’t even think of me as being in the food business, they think of me as a film person. But I like the restaurant business because there’s something exciting about turning out a terrific product and pleasing people.

What are your favorite restaurants in New York? It breaks down by the food because in the city it’s always about what you’re in the mood for. I go to my places for Italian, but other than that I always look to Da Silvano on 6th Avenue, which I’ve always felt is one of the superior Italian restaurants, then Mario Batali’s place Babbo,and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit (I go where the chefs are). And if I want Chinese, I’ll walk over to Chinatown to a place called Fuleen to enjoy just sitting at a round table and ordering and ordering. I’m also a big advocate of delivery — I’ve seen that explode in the last five years, so when I’m not at home cooking with my family, I call restaurants to deliver — to me that’s become so much a part of the way that New Yorkers dine today. When the Knicks play on a Tuesday night or when there are award shows, you can see the numbers rise because people are comfortable staying home and ordering. And that’s another thing I’m going to try to do with Tonda — deliver a better pizza to people in the neighborhood.

Any other big plans for 2009? I’m going to focus on my two new restaurants right now, and also I’m developing two motion pictures as we go, which is very time-consuming. I have a short film that is making the circuit in the film festivals now called “Second Guessing Grandma,” which I’m excited about; and I’ve always taught in the undergrad department at the School of Visual Arts, but now I’ve decided to go back in 2010 teaching a graduate program in independent, short film-making.

Industry Insiders: Jonathan Segal, #1 at The One Group

With hits like STK, One, Kiss & Fly, Coco de Ville, and Tenjune in his portfolio, the CEO of The One Group dishes on the bar/restaurant prototype, banking big in difficult times, and a newfound affection for live music.

Favorite restaurants? There was a restaurant called Baoli in Cannes that was probably one of my favorite restaurants, and was also a major inspirational restaurant for me in what we started to do here in America. In terms of Italian, I like Da Silvano in New York. I love my own restaurants— does that count?

Of course. Which is your favorite? My favorite for vibe and energy is probably One. And for a very cool scene is STK.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Wow where do I start? I would think eating, and having that bread roll before dinner. I should never have it because afterwards, I’m completely full, but I usually end up going to dinner so hungry that I just eat anything that’s put in front of me.

What’s on your radar for 2009? The STK in Miami is opening soon, right? It is under construction but will be open by April. That will open with a 7,000-square-foot restaurant with a 2,000-square-foot lounge adjacent to it, called Coco de Ville. And that’s pretty much how we operate our restaurants 9 times out of 10, we’ll put a lounge or a bar adjacent to or in the same infrastructure as the restaurant. Kind of a trademark of ours.

Aside from the obvious convenience factor of that, what are your other motivations for building adjacent bars and restaurants? If you look at the setup for all the things that we’ve created or we’re associated with, we try to create environments that are multi-purpose venues. For example, if you go to STK in New York, you can go to Tenjune, and then we’re building a rooftop restaurant in the Meatpacking District on that building. If you go to LA, you can come to STK and Coco de Ville, and we are building another bar adjacent to that. The real purpose is to give multiple reasons for people to visit our venues, and then they’ll go to one of those venues, or turn to eat at one or drink at another, and it sort of gives us a better ownership of the clients and creates an overall better experience. Populating close areas with mass entertainment is a really good way to secure continuation of revenue and also continuation of a good time.

When will the rooftop at STK New York open? We are going through the planning process and applications now. I would hope to get it open for this season. New Yorkers love outdoor dining, and we just can’t get enough of it. We have beautiful views over the elevated park out to the Hudson, and it’s going to be a very exciting project.

STK is one of my favorites. Oh thank you very much. It was built with you in mind— a girl who cares.

Who are two people in the hospitality industry that you look up to or two of your industry icons? One of them would be Steve Hanson. I think his attention to detail and his focus on guest service and guest experience is really something. Another person is an old school guy, and that’s Peter Morton, the founder of Hard Rock. They both have completely different operational rationales. Both were truly successful. Steve Hanson operates like the One Group. He’ll operate multiple venues with different styles of food, of design and decor, but with a common thread being that of procedure, service, routine, and structure. Peter Morton, on the other hand, went the other way, and he just focused on one single offering— the Hard Rock. That was the only thing he was really interested in, and he built a great company and just focused on that one product. I’ve had many conversations with Peter Morton about the importance of focus and attention, and I just build a different business. So what’s interesting is that the two people that I think are iconic in our industry have two completely opposite operational rationales.

What are some positive trends that you’ve seen recently in the hospitality industry? For an entrepreneur, and for someone who has confidence in their operation and in the generality of the economy— it’s going to come back. Certainly in my life and business, which I am embarrassed to say is over 30 years, there’s never been a better opportunity to expand a company. And I’m probably one of the few people that is prepared to stand up and say that. I tend to have a much greater degree of confidence in the public and in their ability to work their way through the economy than I probably have in the government to make it happen. And I think hospitality is something that is susceptible to recession, but if one’s clever in the way one markets and the way one positions their product, then I think you can put a buffer up against the recession.

What’s something that people might not know about you? Just say, “He smiled happily.” And then sunk into a corner. I am slightly dyslexic, and not a lot of people know that. And yet I can absolutely read a legal contract, but I can’t read a book. I can play the piano, but I cannot read music. I also live for skiing.

What’s something on your radar right now? Live music. Over Christmas, I went to see Kid Rock play at a party. And I’ve never liked Kid Rock’s music, but I thought he was unbelievable in concert. And I’m watching him perform at this party, and I realized it’s more that you have to experience something in order to appreciate it. I would say that I definitely want to go see more live entertainment. I’ve been involved in live entertainment venues in the past. In one company, we operated more than five cabaret halls with live music, dancers, and magicians. It’s one of those things that if I could find more time, I could definitely go to concerts more. Even to see concerts that didn’t necessarily appeal to me, just to see if my view changes having seen them perform live.

What are you doing tonight? I am going to STK LA with my girlfriend. She has a company called Omnipeace that gives their money to build schools in Africa and helps finance food for villages. I try to get people to pay me for food, and she gives food away.

Industry Insiders: Dominick D’Alleva, Legal Eagle

Dominick D’Alleva, owner of Home and the still-hot Sway, on trading in the Law for the industry, not getting a table at his own joint, and plotting power moves in this economy.

Favorite Hangs: One of my old friends from Yale Law School and I still meet weekly at Da Silvano. We also like other, more quaint restaurants. When we go out, we go to Cipriani, Giorgione, but, since Little Italy has been eaten by Chinatown, you have to look for places [further away].

Point of Origin: I was born in Italy — in Abruzzi on the Adriatic; that had a tremendous influence as I grew up. At four, I stole eggs from my grandmother and traded them for pastries. I started early. I grew up in my uncle’s restaurant in Orsogna; now my cousin has it.

Occupations: I knew I wanted to go to law school and went to Yale Law School before I worked for a big Wall Street Firm: Simpson, Thatcher, Barber — which then represented Lehman Brothers. I always leaned towards business, and wanted to do more than law, which I always thought was a little boring. I finally got into the hospitality, club, and restaurant business in the early 1990s … so my partner and I opened Conscience Point, which lasted for four years. There, I met David Page, the chef, and we opened up Home restaurant a year later here in Greenwich Village. We went from a country club to the Village, with organic food and wines principally from the East Coast. Then, we did Nemo together in South Beach, which was about 1994. There was no Portofino, no nothing — only Joe’s Stone Crab.

I was still in the real estate business, and in 1995, I had a foreclosure at 305 Spring Street, which housed — among other things — McGovern’s Bar, which had been there for 50 years on the corner that met Greenwich. When it ran into some difficulties, I took over the space and we put in a club — Sway. It took a while, but at the time it was tough in real estate and restaurants, so we didn’t open until late 1998. I did open up a new restaurant that had an Italian flavor … Risotteria on Bleecker and Morton. It’s still there, and now I can’t get a table! It started out as salads and risotto and reasonably priced Italian comfort food. Then, we got into gluten-free food, and certain people allergic to wheat loved our pizzas and cookies.

Any non-industry projects in the works? In philanthropy, we have two organizations we work with: ARTrageous, the foster children’s organization, which raises money through auctioning off art. I like to collect, so it was a win/win. I bought a Jeff Koons, who has contributed a lot of his work for the program. I also collaborate with the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless. Henry Buhl’s Sunflower Festival auctions off pieces of art to raise money for the organization. This year, we’ve made $450,000 so far. Those are our two favorite charities, and the next art auction is in May. For those who contribute, the money for the art goes to the foster children. Robin and I are also great supporters of yoga charities and, of course, we subscribe to ABT [American Ballet Theatre] and support the ballet.

Industry Icons: I would say Donald Trump, for a lot of reasons. For stock investments: Warren Buffett. And for restaurants, I would say Steve Hanson, because he not only did the chain restaurant, but also ventured into three-star Fiamma.

Projections: We’re going to have another Risotteria. We were going to do a Pleasure Club on Second Avenue and 46th Street, but have decided on a location closer to the river, in either Midtown or the West side. Also, because of the real estate situation, opportunities should be appearing soon.

What are you doing tonight? After our dinner at Home, we’re stopping off at Sway for mac and cheese, and then going back to our penthouse to enjoy the view from the Trump Tower.

Industry Insiders: Chris Barish, Martini Park Ranger

Martini Park and Marquee co-owner Chris Barish on underage promoting, the power of the water-sipping celeb, bringing club culture to suburbia, and growing up with the Governator.

Point of Origin: I’m from New York. I started throwing parties at my parents’ home when I was young. We’re talking really young, like 15, 16 years old. You know, there used to be fun clubs in New York. They would have an off night, and I would come in and make a deal with whomever the owner was, because either they were failing a bit or they wanted to make a little extra money. I’d promote to the various people I had met in grade school who had then graduated to high school. When you think about it, we were really young, and I can’t believe these clubs would let us do it. It was New York, and it was a different time, different era, different laws, and a different mayor.

Occupations: I started off investing in Moomba because I just knew that it would be a great success. Jeff Gossett (Moomba owner) had become a good friend and asked me to invest. It became my little playground. In the last 18 years nothing has reached that level. It was celebrity heaven. You had to be in in to go. Which was the opposite of what I ended up doing with Light in midtown.

Light opened September of 2000. I remember we opened on a Tuesday night. There were maybe 20 people in the room. I was nervous. Then Thursday night, Charlie Sheen, who had stopped drinking, did me a favor and came in and only drank water. By 5:30 that evening, there was a line wrapping all the way around the block.

We opened Light Vegas a year later in the Bellagio — same name, but a nightclub. We did something that Vegas had not done in a long time. We flew in over 30 movie stars, athletes. We got a business Boeing jet and flew up Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Gordon, and Sting. Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards were there and happy. We got press everywhere [for that]. We then opened up a place called Caramel at the Bellagio and a place called Mist at Treasure Island. When I turned 30, I got a nice offer by the Bellagio to get bought out after only being open two years. By 2005, I started scouting locations around the country (for Martini Park). I felt like there was a need in the marketplace for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and on for an upscale nightlife experience that starts after work and leads into the rest of the night. We’re a hospitality-driven nightlife experience for everyone — for people like me. It’s a playground for grownups. We opened in a [Dallas] suburb called Plano, Texas. Then opened up in Chicago and now we’re about to open in Columbus, Ohio, in late October. We will open three to four next year.

Side Hustle: I love film. I produced a short film [called “Kill the Day”] for a very talented friend. I like to play tennis. I’d like to be a yogi, but I can’t really find the time. I’m a new daddy now so everything changes.

Favorite Hangs: When I’m not traveling, my home away from home is Da Silvano. Besides Silvano, I’ve been a fan of Raoul’s for 20 years. When I did go out before [my wife] Michelle’s pregnancy, I’d go to Soho House, Rose Bar, and Waverly Inn. I know it sounds predictable. My favorite old school bar is Merc Bar. It will never close. John McDonald is the owner and a good friend.

Known Associates: I admire, respect, and am good friends with Mark Packer, the owner of Tao. I think he’s one of the best operators out there. Noah [Tepperberg] and Jason [Strauss] from Marquee are colleagues and great friends of mine. Also, Steve Hanson from B.R. Guest Restaurants. He owns about 17 restaurants in the city. He’s a friend who I can email or text, and I know within an hour he’ll text back. Also, my father (Keith Barish) was in the film business and produced 18 films. When I was 12 years old, I walked down the stairs, and there was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He and Dad did The Running Man together and became partners in Planet Hollywood. He did this great thing for my engagement party. He warned me, “First come the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, then suffe-ring.”

Industry Icons: Steve Hanson is someone I want to emulate. He works day and night. I’m naming friends, but they are also people in the industry. I’ve seen a younger generation do great stuff. For example, I’ve watched Jason Pomerantz from the Thompson Hotel do his hotel expansion and he does a very good job. Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson. I don’t know Sean, but I know Eric really well. Here’s an example of someone who started off in nightclubs, had success in restaurants, and now has the Bowery Hotel and the Maritime Hotel. His taste is unbelievable.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going home early from work and I’m testing out our stroller. My wife and I are taking baby Bea out and seeing if we can get our Yorkie to fit in the undercarriage so she doesn’t feel left out.

Photo by Chelsea Stemple.