Industry Insiders: Max Riedel, Crystal King

Max Riedel knows crystal. He’s the Riedel Glassware spokesperson, and a member of the 11th generation of a family business known for spinning high-end glassware. Riedel was born in Vienna, but now leads from the office in New York, where he attracts fellow car lovers and attractive women. More on his fast lifestyle after the jump.

Point of origin: There was school and military service which is mandatory in Austria. Later, I did the very first internship at Tiffany in New York. Then, I picked grapes for Taittinger Champagne, after which I moved to Paris for three years where I worked with our distributor. My father and grandfather were always wanting me to come on board and they made it easy, so I was very fortunate to join in 1997. Then came the big move to New York.

Non-industry projects: I have a lot of interests outside of my industry, but I designed a champagne glass for the Riedel collection, the pink ‘O’ glass which we introduced in 2004, 15% of the proceeds from the sale of which are donated to one of my favorite charities, Living With Breast Cancer. It’s now in it’s fourth year. As with the pink ‘O’ champagne glass, 15% of every pink ‘O’ glass we design at Riedel is donated to the charity. I received an award from the BBC award for our involvement.

Favorite hangs: I’m so rarely casual, I always wear a suit and tie, but sometimes I travel, go on long trips with beautiful cars in wine countries, often in the South of France. This year it was Tuscany, and last year the Cote d’Azur, but in New York I like to spend time at Blaue Gans or Bar Boulud .

Industry icons: My father. Nobody is as creative as my father, and as far as the wine country goes, my heart beats for the Pinot Noir in Oregon; they’re very consistent. When it comes to winemakers, I like the late Robert Mondavi, with whom I worked, but for sure I admire Frederic Engerer President of LaTour.

Counterparts: I was engaged, but we split after six years, so now when it comes to hanging out with beautiful girls, I’m very open minded. But like to hang out with foodies like Lee Schrager, and others who contribute to our industry. And, of course, anybody who likes to ride around fast cars.

Projections: I foresee a promising future in my family business as it’s grown so much. We purchased our biggest competitor, so now we’re free to act in any industry where glass prevails. We’re coming up with a new decanter for the Reidel brand, and we’re also coming up with a crystal beer collection, based on old concepts, a beautiful glass that’s actually dishwasher safe. We’ve come up with a four-piece crescendo for the pink ‘O’ collection — available through our new web store which we launched in August, linked to riedel.com, the first web store that carries our entire collection.

Industry Insiders: Stephen Attoe and Robert Caravaggi, Swift Decision Makers

When the ladies who lunched at Mortimer’s learned that their landmark of choice was closing, they swooned right into the waiting arms of two young Mortimer’s chefs who set out on their own and knew how to make their favorites perfectly. Just a few blocks downtown at Swifty’s, Robert Caravaggi and Stephen Attoe’s serve up everything from a mouth-watering childhood meatloaf at $25 a slice, to a soufflé so light it levitates. The foodie mecca is named after a dog rescued by the teams former boss, Mortimer’s owner Glenn Birnbaum.

Describe a day in your job. Robert Caravaggi: I’m the front of the house and he’s the back of the house guy. We collaborate on everything, whatever we do, whatever policies we have, we always collaborate. We’re the John and Paul of the restaurant business.

You two worked at Mortimer’s forever. Stephen Attoe: I worked there from 1982 until they closed. RC: I was there in 1981, and the story’s the same.

And how did you make the move to Swifty’s? RC: We were at Mortimer’s for a long, long time. When it closed after Glenn Birnbaum unexpectedly passed away, the customers panicked, and we said, ‘We’re going to open something,’ and opened Swifty’s on October 1, 1999. We were trying to be the anti-Mortimer’s, because they always had a reputation of being rude and snotty, so we tried to be exactly the opposite. We greet our customers personally; we’re courteous to them, always. Courtesy is just good manners.

How did you get your start? RC: My family was in the restaurant business. My father owned a few like Quo Vadis in London, so while I went to school, I did everything there. It was a four star restaurant with classic cuisine. I had that traditional background like Stephen, with a lot of experience in French and Italian. Mortimer’s was different and at a certain point, Glen Birnbaum brought me from Quo Vadis, where I started as a bar boy. Stephen and I met at Mortimer’s and worked together for years. It’s been quite an adventure. SA: I was born in England and went to culinary school at 15 at Westminster Culinary School. I finished my apprenticeship at the Connaught Hotel, and from there I came here and traveled a bit. My wife and I had the Four in Hand Country Inn for a couple of years in Vermont. When we sold it, I accepted the chef’s job at Mortimer’s.

Where are your go-to places? SA: I don’t go out; I work. But I sometimes go to Mezzaluna for good pasta and pizza. Via Quadronno is on 73rd just off Madison and the light there is great in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner. RC: I love Japanese food, so I like Nobu 57. I have a good friend who owns Cellini on 54th Street, and in this neighborhood when I run out of work, late, for comfort food to T Bar. They have a modern steak house and it’s right around the corner. I also like The Palm. Stephen and I know the Executive Chef, Neal Myers, very well.

Who do you look up to? RC: I admire Keith McNally for Pastis and his restaurants in general, they’re very authentic. I knew Jean Georges when he was working at Le Regence at Plaza Athénée. He’s quite impressive and what I admire about him especially is that you’ll also find him behind the line in his various establishments. He’s somebody you can look up to. He keeps his chops like all great chefs. When they stop doing that, they lose touch with the core of this business.

What’s the core of your business? SA: The core is the kitchen, but Robert and I are here all the time and we keep in touch with the staff, the customers, and we’re very connected with both groups of people; we’re not married to each other, but we’re married to the business. RC: Were considering expansion and the thing we fear most is being separated from our flagship for too long and how that would affect our customers, the service and everything that goes on? I’d love to know how those guys with lots of restaurants hold their standards.

Anything that annoys you? SA: The way the city government is meddling in small businesses and the way they handle them is negative. Small business is an open wallet for the government, penalizing them for petty violations that are often questionable — from trash pick-up to health violations to fire marshal inspections. They’re all designed to raise capital for the government. It puts pressure on every business. The LLC license, liquor license, all of that can be streamlined. The grading system is fine, there should be a guide to health, but the government is increasing inspections to twice a year which is just another tax-small-businesses reason to go to the well so often before businesses start to fail. RC: They put a lot of pressure on you, but that’s New York, so you’ve got to have thick skin.

Something that people don’t know about you? RC: I’m also a musician. I write pop songs, but I used to have a rock band in the ’80s. It was a hobby, but a fun one. SA: I’m a gardener, a hunter and a marathoner.

Industry Insiders: James Overbaugh, The Peninsula’s Man of Action

A sustainable, pollution free kitchen is exactly what executive chef James Overbaugh is creating at The Belvedere At The Peninsula Hotel. We spoke with him about Julia Child, oysters and going green.

Describe a day on the job. I oversee the entire operation here with two restaurants, banquet rooms, club bar, living rooms and cafeteria. I have a great team to assist me with the process. It’s an extremely diverse job. We could be training to serve a brand new dish at the Belvedere or upgrading guests, or be up on the roof putting together something new for a VIP banquet, or preparing special requests for our stars after the Oscars.

How’d you start in the business? Years ago, I started opening oysters and clams on the East coast; cracking lobsters and working the appetizers station at about 15 years old. I’d had no previous exposure to the culinary world. I lived to get to work, to be around food, to touch food and it led to better and better operations. I had mentors at an early age, and made a big change by going to the CIA in Hyde Park, New York in 1989. It was 25 years last fall since I began working in a kitchen.

What are your go-to places? There’s a restaurant called Dali in Sommerville, Massachusetts that I discovered on Valentines Day when I was about 21. It was written up in Food and Wine, and for me it’s still one of the most delicious menus I’ve had in the United States. I was recently in Vegas and went to SW, the new steakhouse at the Wynn Hotel. It’s so Vegas. They have a Lake of Dreams, and Steve Wynn style and some pretty intense things come out of that lake.

How is it working at the Peninsula? Ours is a hotel with legendary status, and sometimes I’m struck by this timeless restaurant, the different faces of the Belvedere. It’s the power breakfast and lunch place where people are doing deals on vacation. Here we are in a bad economy, and we’re doing extremely well. It’s a spacious, elegant, comfortable restaurant where you can have a private conversation. When it gets to the dinner hour, people are staying there for a longer time, and since we have a seasonal menu, the cuisine evolves.

Who are your mentors? Nobody has done more to pursue the culinary arts than Julia Child. It was much more challenging when she was coming up, and she was so real, so honest, so sincere, not to mention talented. She brought fine cuisine home and made it a part of the American mentality. I had two opportunities to meet her before she passed away, once when she sat next to me at table. I’d read her biography and meeting her just did more to impress on me her extraordinary nature. Another icon of mine is Charlie Trotter, for more than just his beautiful cookbooks or the reputation of his restaurant. When I came here in 1995, I took a post at a Relais Chateau restaurant, and in January, 1996, I did ten days in his kitchen. He really knows how to create and lead an extraordinary team. The morale and the camaraderie were incredible. Are there good things going on in hospitality right now? I create tremendous relationship with farmers, and I’m passionate about the connection to the land, so I watch with a degree of interest some of these programs that have cropped up outside of the core of the hospitality industry where farms are dealing directly with schools, and promoting local products. When you realize the importance of eating foods without a negative impact on the environment — local farming, sustainable techniques, the commitment to these principles – as a chef, there’s nothing more important you can do than take local produce and bring it to your clientele.

What’s the hardest part about going green? As much as I’m excited about the environmental movement in our industry, it’s all about right and wrong. We need to change our course. It doesn’t happen over night, and maybe as much as we’re talking about organizing produce and green resources, they’re often more expensive. I’m in a healthy demographic area here, but a trend that concerns me is that while we’re so committed to these new initiatives, the more and more I look at the rise of restaurants focused on delivering value for giving the greatest portions and not necessarily of the greatest quality from a produce viewpoint, it’s not local. To do things right is becoming more expensive, so unfortunately the average American’s ability to afford it is decreasing. A lot of establishments are dropping their standards because people can’t afford to do it right. True fine dining is becoming less common as it becomes more expensive, so the margins get thinner.

Industry Insiders: David Copperfield, Man of Many Talents

It seems pretty evident that David Copperfield can do anything. The traveling, world famous magician has recently added developer to his extensive resume, taking on a group of uninhabited islands in Musha Cay near the Exumas in the southern Bahamas that he’s calling it The Islands of Copperfield Bay. The magic man still keeps residences in New York and Las Vegas, but escapes to his new paradise down south as often as his schedule allows. More on the magician’s luxe beach resort and life after the jump.

What do you call yourself? I’ll take what I can get… magician is pretty good. If the magic I do seems real and creates wonder, I’ll accept that. Otherwise, I’m a communicator and story teller. It was always my dream to tell stories in the same way all the people I admired did. Like Victor Fleming, Frank Capra, but I couldn’t sing or direct films. Orson Welles was a friend, until he died. I tried to take what I could do and achieve the same emotions by doing magic, so I told stories and tried to move and amaze an audience.

Now you’re a developer. I bring the same kind of storytelling and emotional roller coaster to the resort. I changed the name to Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay. If Donald Trump can get away with it, then, what the hell? Only one island is developed and has 40 pink sandy beaches. It’s really beautiful for about two miles. The others are uninhabited, really remarkable, and we’re making the island chain into a nature reserve. We’re legitimately researching conservation with exotic animals. Now that I have 700 acres of amazing islands for them to inhabit, with a larger space than a zoo could offer, it‘s wonderful.

How did this start? I bought the islands four years ago, and we’ve been collecting artifacts to display since. In Africa, I’ve been given artifacts from royal families, and now I have a place to show them. The Burmese Buddha outside a temple was once given to me in China, and now it’s going to be in the islands. When I originally made the purchase, it was already a retreat for very select clients.

Are there technical difficulties in building there? We used barges to bring equipment, helicopters and planes. There’s now a 450 acre island with its own landing strip for caravans with 2,000 feet of runway. National Geographic landed on our beaches and shot the islands.

What would be your best trick? World peace, world health.

You were just some nice, Jewish kid from small-town Jersey when you were teaching magic at NYU at 16. The theatre department at NYU found me when I still in high school, and they picked me because I was so good at magic. When I was 12, I was admitted into the society of American Magicians, but remember: I sucked at everything else.

And then you attended Fordham? I went to Fordham, a nice Jewish school, and I left there for a planned three weeks when I got into a show in Chicago in The Music Man, and suddenly 20 years pass by, and they give me an honorary Doctorate, with George Mitchell, the Peacemaker.

What’s your favorite room to perform? The good thing about my career is that it changes, I play arenas in Europe; theatres here in the U.S. There’s a really beautiful one I first performed in with Andy Williams 20 years ago in Cleveland, and then there’s Vegas and the Islands. It’s really a buffet, a moveable feast!

It was rumored that you had a problem with Michael Jackson 12 years ago, as friends, I went to Neverland and I worked on one of his tours, and then all of a sudden on April Fool’s Day it was rumored that we were in discussions, and that he wanted me to appear in the new show. I thought it was an April Fool’s Joke. Then without any contact at all, I was fired from the non-existent show. I hadn‘t seen the man for two years. He went too soon. I knew Kenny Ortega was the director of This Is It, but I was never part of it.

Where are your go-to places? Next door to me in New York is Le Colonial for French Vietnamese. I like it very much, then there’s Daniel, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, or just going to the deli for a corned beef sandwich.

Who do you admire? At the beginning of my career, my idols were Disney and Welles so my direction took a different path, and I tried to preserve everything. In Las Vegas, I have a museum, the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts with 80,000 things of Houdini and Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin who was the father of modern magic. It’s an incredible place and I’ve had all of their ephemera, their illusions. I have Houdini’s strait jackets, handcuffs, keys, mirror cuffs, the milk can escape — everything. When I give a tour, it’s as if he were alive today. Everything he’s famous for.

The upside of your profession? Is there any other David Copperfield out there? I think it’s terrific, whatever makes people dream is positive. We really need it, especially in times like this. We need to be transported, whether with art or music or dance or storytelling, or what I do. What I do is really primal, as in, you’re taking Mother Nature and turning her upside down.

The worst part? Sometimes people mistake magic for something demonic. The only story I can tell you is that about ten years ago I was in the South, and I had a picketer outside the theatre with a sign that said ‘David Copperfield is the Devil.” And I sent my crew outside to take a picture of this guy. I kept it on my dressing room table. Two years later, we returned and the guy was out there again, and I decided to have some fun. I took the picture, put it in my pocket and walked outside with a friend and a Polaroid camera, and I introduced myself as David Copperfield, the Devil, and asked him if he’d mind if I got a picture with him. My friend took a picture with me, the guy and the sign. I stepped away from him and pulled out the picture from two years ago, handed it to him and walked away. I don’t think he’s coming back.

Something people might not know about you? I’m a really bad karaoke singer, but I think I’m good. I take my work seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously.

Favorite movies? I love Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, American Beauty, Inglorious Bastards.

Industry Insiders: Jack Penrod, Nikki Beach Principal

A family tragedy led entrepreneur Jack Penrod to choose a garden spot at his beach resort and name it after his daughter, Nikki. After some outside influences expressed interest in the location, Penrod decided to allow the garden to be used for parties and events, and it eventually became the well-known Nikki Beach Miami. The empire now includes locations in Cabo San Lucas, Marrakech, Marbella, Koh Samui , New York, Panama, St. Barts and Toronto, to name a few. The avid pilot and diver manages the jet set-friendly brand with his wife, Lucia and talks about the humble beginnings of a nightlife staple after the jump.

Describe your job. I feel I’ve never worked a day in my life because the type of business I created is all about a lifestyle, it’s a representation of what I love to do in life. I love the water, and Nikki Beach is always on the water

Do you have any partners? My wife, Lucia, and I own the business. We don’t have partners in the Nikki Beach, but there are special arrangements where we partner with the property owner or somebody who will watch the location as an owner would. We’re spread all over the world, and as you go to different countries with different regulations, cultures, languages, the only way we’ve been able to maintain the business for over ten years is to make the local people partners in that location.

How’d you get your start? I come from humble beginnings. My father died young, and my mother had to struggle, so I worked at an early age. I started working at McDonald’s, like the guy who pursued the American Dream. I’ve always been a natural born marketer with an aptitude for business. My McDonald’s phase began as a cook for 85 cents-an-hour. In a short period of time they made me the manager of the location in Tallahassee. The founder decided my location was doing better than any of the others, and came to visit me to see what I was doing right. I tried giving specials to bus drivers with loads of kids who drove through. After awhile, I became one of the largest McDonald’s owners. I made my money with no help. After that, I did Penrod’s Beach Club for a very young crowd in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Daytona and I promoted to Spring Breakers.

How did Nikki Beach start? I don’t like to talk about it, because the reason for opening Nikki Beach is very personal. My young daughter, Nicole, died in a car accident in 1987. In order to deal with my emotional situation, I created a garden for her at Penrod’s Beach Club in South Beach. She would have loved the garden by the sea. I had no intention of making a business out of it, but one day two young guys showed up who wanted to have a Monday night party there. At first, I said no, but they were the same age as Nicole, so I gave in. It grew from the Monday night party in the late 1990s, and every celebrity from Cameron Diaz to Harrison Ford to Al Pacino was there on a Monday night. Eric Omores eventually came to us, and he’d been doing clubs all his life. He wanted to expand it to the beach with a French style beach club, and that’s how Nikki Beach was born. I decided that my personal tragedy shouldn’t consume me, but that I should pay tribute to the life she lived, a commitment to celebrate life. There’s a picture of Nicole in every place we open.

Where are your go-to places? We’re so overexposed to amazing restaurants, than when it comes to my personal life, I prefer simple things — and love barbecue! In Miami, I go to Shorty’s Bar-B-Q. For my personality and who I am, culinary experiences are not my forte. I dive, and eat the fish I catch.

Who do you look up to? Ray Kroc, who took a cheap burger joint and turned it into McDonald’s, influenced me and I have a lot of respect for what he did.

What’s the appeal of Nikki Beach? The common denominator is the experience the customer gets, not just eating or partying, but the whole experience of going out at night. If you look at Nikki Beach, we have great food, but you’re going there to have an amazing time with friends and family.

What annoys you? Unoriginal copy cats. It happens every day that somebody opens a Nikki Beach lookalike in another country. One of the bigger prizes is the growing of the brand in a global way. It makes its own challenges, and all of the politics, regulations, countries and languages that present the next opportunity.

What’s something that people might not know about you? There are a lot of people who don’t know about me because I’m a very, very private person and very much into my family. I’ve created and owned one of the most glamorous lifestyle brands, but I’m a very simple, down-to-earth person who is not really into the glamor thing that much.

Industry Insiders: Tehmina Adaya, Shangri-La’s Lady

President and CEO of Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica, Tehmina Adaya has been hard at work prepping the family-owned business for an expansion to five more locations in the next five years. Adaya also heads up the record label, So Sweet Records. More on her hotelier views after the jump.

How did you come to be associated with Shangri-La? I come from a family that owns commercial real estate and my father bought the Shangri-La in 1983. The family ran it as a mom-and-pop hotel for years, but my father handed the reins to me a few years ago. It’s still a privately owned and managed lifestyle business. I’m a family girl, who is wholly invested in the lifestyle business—as an hotelier in a fantasy destination for the hospitality industry.

How did you get your start? I’m originally from Pakistan, but moved to California when I was 12. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and still live six blocks away. My father was my mentor; he set the example of being a balanced individual and was a successful entrepreneur who worked until nine o’clock every night. I grew up in a family business environment. When my father became ill, he began to hand the family business baton to me, the youngest of six children. He groomed me all my life and put me in charge of his whole portfolio. I’m now the trustee for everything. My mother is alive and well, and a great supporter.

Who do you look up to in the hospitality industry? Ian Schrager did an amazing thing for the hospitality industry in general. Where I differ from him is in the elitism at the Gramercy Park Hotel. I also admire André Balazs, who has made the Chateau Marmont better and better. My personal mentors are Goodwin Gaw, who owns the Hollywood Roosevelt—another historic building—and turned it into a very dynamic space instead of a museum where nobody wants to stay. Another person I like is Mark Rosenthal of the Sunset Marquis, which is now an urban sanctuary that didn’t give up an inch of their history.

What do you predict for 2010? Part of the hospitality industry is turning into a lifestyle industry—now you go into a hotel and see beautiful art and hear relevant music, get different bath products in your room, consume different drinks in a unique bar, meet more interesting people. Even if you lead a suburban lifestyle, once you stay at the right hotel, you feel young and dynamic. You feel like you know what’s happening. The hospitality industry is also becoming more environmentally responsible. Our hotel is much more green than it’s ever been, and even the bath product bottles are biodegradable—they’re made of cornstarch and disintegrate in a landfill. Our toilets are green too, they’re dual flush toilets! I read a shocking old statistic that claimed that one American used as much natural resources as 40 Bengalis. My father would get upset if I left the tap on while brushing my teeth because he said, “You’re answerable to God and the environment for everything you waste.”

Positive changes in ’09? You were once treated as either a nobody or as a VIP. Now hosts are treating all guests with an equal hand with the economic downturn in full swing.

Something that people might not know about you? I don’t think people really know that I’m involved in the music industry, that I have my own dance music label, So Sweet Records, and that I adore fashion and I love designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Alaia. I’m a complete Anglophile; I love that England is so culturally dynamic and socially diverse, which comes from living in Pakistan for the first 12 years of my life. My husband and I are both Muslims, although his mother is Turkish and his father is Lebanese. He was born in Kuwait where his father was brought to head the nation’s medical profession—his father delivered all of the royal babies there as well.

What’s your favorite city? London! I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t visit twice a year.

Any non-industry projects in the works? Raising my children. My eldest son, 20, told me he was really proud of me when I started the hotel and the record label because it made things seem possible for him and said, “I can see my mother doing it, and it really inspires me.” The label is another child to me. I also started a school and worked hard at it—it’s an elementary school, pre-school-to-sixth grade called New Horizon. My father donated the land, and I had it accredited within five years.

Where are your go-to places in LA? First, I love SkyBar; it started the whole outdoor lifestyle bar thing in Los Angeles and is fabulously done at the Mondrian. I love the Chateau Marmont; that’s the property I would compare our historic hotel to—it’s a comfortable place with stellar service and impeccable food. Nothing compares to the Four Seasons, and you can actually smoke outside! I love The Edison, located in an industrial ballroom; it’s timelessly hot. I really like Foxtail, it’s just beautiful and reminiscent of Biba in London in the 1970s. My favorite indoor bar is at the Sanderson in London—very French and delicate, mirrored, like a doll house or a jewel.

Industry Insiders: Hoss Zaré, Buzzing from the Fly Trap

Hoss Zaré, the Chef and Owner of Zaré at Fly Trap in San Francisco, dishes about his calling in the kitchen, positive aspects of the recession and the monotony of mixology.

Where do you go out? I love Kaygetsu Sushi in Menlo Park because the entire experience is immaculate. Slide is my favorite bar because it turns everyone into a kid in a playground, and I love the restaurant bar scene in San Francisco right now. I’ll hit Conduit, Beretta, Bix, or Aziza on any given night. When I moved to Napa, I just had a restaurant there, and I thought it was perfect. I love to cook, but I wanted to go out after a long day, and in Napa, after 8:30pm, everything shuts down, so when you want to go out, everything’s closed. So I’d drive to San Francisco, an hour each way. Always, on my day off, I’d make time to go to different restaurants there. You want to learn? Go out and eat another chef’s food. I recommend every chef who teaches me something.

What do you do? I’m a chef/owner of one of San Francisco’s best restaurants, Zaré at Fly Trap. I’m lucky enough to combine my personality with my passion and my profession, every day. Twenty or thirty years ago, the chef position wasn’t as prestigious as it is now, and I can remember when I came here from Iran 25 years ago, nobody knew the magician behind the curtain. Jim Hightower was the first chefs I’d ever heard of. Now, you follow the chef from venue to venue. Back in Persia, being a chef is another thing. It’s not a prestigious job, but as a cook, it’s a necessary one. Maybe it’s changing now. Then, it was a touchy subject. I was studying medicine when I found that my real calling was cooking.

Name two icons in your industry Joyce Goldstein, because she’s one of the pioneers in the San Francisco food world. She never lets her achievements get in the way of working hard. Roland Passot of La Folie is a constant big brother and friend to me. I’ve had the good fortune to know him for a long time. I had a five course Valentine’s menu in my restaurant, and he called me and said, “We’ve got to talk,” in that heavy French accent of his. He said, “What the hell are you doing? You give them two courses and they get the third course at home!” It was the biggest lesson I’ve learned. Make a New Years dinner last longer, but on Valentines Day they really want to go home.

What are positive trends you’ve noticed in the hospitality industry recently? I love watching the community feeling of restaurants grow. In the response to the economy more people are dining at communal tables and bars. The result is bringing everyone together and creating a home-away-from-home atmosphere at restaurants. Plus it’s easy to make reservations in places that were once too packed to get in.The economy is creating excellent price points and shorter lines.

Negative trends? I’m getting tired of the mixology trend. Let me be more specific: I’m getting tired of waiting 15 minutes for a $12 cocktail I’m supposed to make a big fuss about. I have my own mixology. The problem is that some restaurants are going too far. I went into a restaurant and it took 20 minutes to get a drink because they were making something exclusive for me. It’s not worth it to wait that long for a drink. I’m old fashioned, I want a light dirty martini. That’s my drink.

Industry Insiders: Glen Coben, Design-Addicted

Glen Coben is the president of Glen and Company, specializing in architecture branding design. He’s had a hand in Bistro Chat Noir, Del Posto, Esca, the Neptune Room, Noodle Bar, and Zucca. Coben describes himself as an architect and designer with an intense love of creating spaces; his current projects include the new Wyndam hotel, Fashion 26, The Edison Ballroom, a complete renovation of the Old Homestead, Bar Luna, and 57 restaurant and club in Tokyo.

How would you describe yourself? My life varies between being in the office and working with my incredible team of architects and designers on great projects. I’m meeting with clients, contractors, artists. The industry is about relationships that form the foundation of what we do. What I do is the ability to tell stories through design.

Upcoming projects? Miguel Sanchez Romera’s Barcelona-based L’Esguard has one Michelin star, and I’m designing his first restaurant outside Barcelona. It will be called MSR New York. I’ve spent the last 18 months working with him, and we’ve unveiled what the restaurant is going to look like. Fashion 26 at the Wyndham is what brought us together. I was originally hired to design the restaurant, and then we were hired out to do the lobby and public spaces, and then the guest rooms. The great thing about the project is their corporate guidelines; they’re wonderfully fashioned and put together, not quite like a menu, but it talks about expectation of quality. When we first sat down, we were encouraged to follow the guidelines of quality, but to also strive for innovation specific to the location, or site-specific design.

And how was working on Fashion 26? In making brand values local to space, Fashion 26 will speak value-for-money integrated with understated luxury in the Garment District. Those were our talking points as far as designing this particular Wyndham Hotel: value for less money. We used a lot of references to “weaving” things together with plaids and pinstripes to create custom wall coverings and treatments. The front desk is an old cutting-room table with cast iron legs. We’ve created a fashion stew.

Some of your favorite projects? I was the store designer for NIKE and NIKETOWN, which has a global brand presence.

How did you start out? I went to Cornell School of Architecture and learned that architects come in lots of different shapes and sizes. From there, I went to a collaborative organization for artists and architects called SITE for Sculpture in the Environment, and my first mentor was an artist called James Wines, an icon of the early 70s and 80s. From there, I was a principal at Rockwell Group, where my role was to head up the fairly large studio, and I worked on very diverse projects, such as the Kodak Theatre for the Academy Awards. I was working with Michael Ovitz to bring football back to Los Angeles. I was also in charge of the Mall at Jersey Garden. The diversity of work there inspired me to go out on my own and create a diversified practice.

What are your go-to places? The original Wild Ginger in Seattle. You remember the first time you ever taste the Seven Flavor Beef. I also like La Esquina, Corton, Dovetail, the front room at Gramercy Tavern, the Bouqueria in Barcelona and Amandari Hotel in Bali.

Who are your mentors? I admire David Rockwell as an innovator, a hospitality designer, and as a friend.

What is architecture focused on right now? Comfort. I see that we’re going towards a time where guests are looking for comfort as well as style and accessibility.

Anything that annoys you? Molecular gastronomy. I don’t truly understand the term. I understand that it’s innovation in terms of technique, but the need for a label to talk about something that is either new or avant garde puts people into a cubbyhole that’s too limited for some who are doing amazing things that are not molecular by nature. The term bothers me.

Industry Insiders: Shimon Bokovza, Samba Savvy

As a 21-year-old Russian beach bum, he started Israel’s first and only ski resort, followed by an open-air Amazon village complete with volleyball court and golf driving range on the Hudson River. He went on to open the Kit Kat Club that featured Cabaret off-Broadway, and finally Sushi Samba. His Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill will also open in coming months in Miami, just in time for New Year’s. While celebrating Sushi Samba’s 10 Year Anniversary this month, Shimon Bokovza is just warming up.

What’s your job description? I’m trying to be like the Kennedys now! In charge of all of the operations of Sushi Samba, worldwide. I basically am into the operation of the places and reinventing how to keep Sushi Samba relevant, how to keep it going — from the menu to sprucing up the places. We’ve been in operation for ten years, and some locations need capital improvement to update them, so there’s a lot to do, plus bringing in a new management to the places. Above all, we’re looking into expansion, to see exactly where we’re going next. We’d like to do it where we get the most for our efforts. We just opened in Vegas, and it takes a lot of “push” to keep it going. Then, there are meetings with managers, tastings, meetings with the corporate chiefs, the managing partners. It’s a big schedule and requires a lot of traveling on a weekly basis. When I don’t travel, I’m really happy.

How’d you get your start? As a kid I was walking with my father in the market, shopping with him, so I learned from him how to pick up the right foods. In the Mediterranean, shopping is done on a daily basis. Knowing how to buy foods is really important, so when you eat it, you’re really happy with it. Then I went to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, and then to the hospitality industry.

But you did that after you’d already opened a ski resort when you were only 21. Yes, but that was in 1979. I had a lot to learn before I opened Harvest, Apropos, then the first Amazon Club in Philadelphia before we came to Manhattan and Sag Harbor.

What are your go-to places? Because of my travel, I really don’t eat much outside of Sushi Samba, except when I’m home. I have two little ones, so I cook a lot at home to spend time with them. If I go out, one of my favorite places is the Bar Room in The Modern at the MoMA. My son is the chef de cuisine there, so obviously I go there more often than most places. When I go to Miami, I like Michy’s by Michelle Bernstein. I also like Senora Martinez, a fresh tapas place. Other than that, in Vegas, if I don’t eat at my restaurant, I like Robuchon.

Who are your mentors? I really like somebody who came to speak at Cornell, Joe Baum, who has unfortunately passed away. He really influence me quite a bit, besides being my wife’s ex-boss. I really respected him. I admire my wife and my mother for whatever they do, and after all, my wife is in the business!

What’s going on in hospitality? I think a lot of good things are happening: the industry is becoming more sophisticated, more computerized. What we do today with OpenTable is amazing, you’d never have thought that something we did for ten years would now be industry wide. Most of our reservations are coming through the web. There’s another company that’s dealing with intelligent programs: Avero. I don’t now what we’d do without them, and ten years ago they didn’t exist. I think we were their second or third contract. In addition to that, the industry is more green friendly than before. Food is going to become more and more local; you need to be in a certain radius of the food range to get really good, locally grown, organic food. Slowly, slowly it’s moving through the industry. Thirty years ago, this was the most primitive part of the industry.

Things that annoy you about owning a restaurant? I’m not sure if it’s negative or not: it’s the regulations by different cities, by different codes. We’re a business that consists of thousands of little things that need to be put together to become a restaurant. If you stop it with regulations, it becomes really difficult, probably one of the toughest things in this business. Like everything else, you overcome it make it happen, move on.

Something that people might not know about you? I like to eat fish heads! Probably, if I would say that I love Guns N’ Roses and that I play guitar, people wouldn’t believe me.

Favorite guitarist? I really like Paco de Lucía because he’s the best guitar player on this planet. I’m a guitar player, but I’m so bad. Once I heard him play, I stopped.

Who are your favorite artists? I like Piet Mondrian, and am very much influenced by him at Sushi Samba. That takes me into the most recent love: graffiti art. We’ve started working with it and it’s become fashionable in the past three years. We exhibit at Art Basel every year, graffiti artists from Brazil and Japan at the restaurant in Miami Beach, and we design the restaurants with artists in mind. Our Graffiti Gone Global initiative is the city’s largest international street art fair. We’ll also publish a corresponding book with GGG curators James and Karla Murray. A lot of our food is based on street food, so other street elements, like graffiti make Sushi Samba a complete experience in a great place to eat.