Industry Insiders: Justin Sievers, Service Manager of The Dutch

First he dined there, now he works there. Once a regular patron at restaurant hotspot The Dutch, Sievers now manages the front of house staff, scheduling, and The Dutch’s famed and boisterous dining scene. “If the staff is having a good time, so will the guests,” Sievers says. They sure are. Lauded for chef Andrew Carmellini’s American cuisine with a Southern tinge, The Dutch is one of New York’s most talked-about restaurants.

Siever’s menu favorites include the little oyster sandwiches, rabbit pot pie, and any of the dessert pies. As someone who’s worked in restaurants – from high-end French to casual Mexican – since the age of 16, he knows good food and good service. Here, Sievers shares how he became a part of the New York culinary scene, what his managing style is like, and the number one quality you need to succeed.

How did you first become involved with The Dutch?
I began working for Andrew Carmellini and his partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom in May of 2009 when Locanda Verde opened.  My focus there was beverage under Josh Nadel, the beverage director, and now at The Dutch I’m a service manager.

How did you get your start in the culinary world?
I’ve been working in restaurants in Atlanta, GA since I turned 16. I studied hospitality management at Georgia State University and worked in Atlanta and Vail, CO bartending and serving.  When I came to New York City, I landed the job at Locanda Verde.

As the manager of The Dutch’s front of house, what’s your style like?
I try to present myself as an even-keeled, approachable figure that staff can rely on. Getting to know each person working with you is an important part of making them feel comfortable and part of the team. In the end, it’s all about making sure that the guests are having an amazing time, so creating an environment in which your staff is having an amazing time is key.

When you’re not managing the house, what do you do to relax?
I’m really into snowboarding and rock climbing when the weather allows.  I try to play music as often as possible.  I come from a family of musicians so I grew up playing drums with my dad and still like to jam with friends when possible.  I don’t have anything that is super organized right now though. Other than that, I’m still very much a beverage guy, so learning about and drinking wines and spirits is always a fun way to be productive. 

Since you’ve been at The Dutch, what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
Flexibility is key. Not only being flexible in the position you can fill but also within that position.  Once you can become dynamic enough to successfully complete all the different aspects of the job, you are infinitely more valuable. One of the most important aspects is managing people, which takes an immense amount of flexibility.

Summer Spirits to Beat the Heat

It’s summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and you’re probably looking for ways to keep cool. The best way, of course, is to sip a nice cold glass of beer, wine, or spirits. Here are a few of my favorites for afternoons under the sun and breezy evenings in shirt sleeves. 

Beer’s as casual as summer itself, and I’m always happy when someone puts an ice-cold bottle of Heineken or Amstel Light in my hand. I also enjoy Samuel Adams Summer Ale, a crisp wheat with a citrus bite, and Samuel Adams Belgian Session, an ale with a quaffability far beyond that of its Flemish cousins. 
 
When it comes to whiskey, the light and flavorful Gentleman Jack ($32) goes down well on sultry nights. The new Whistlepig Straight Rye ($70) boasts a complex spiciness that leaves you feeling cool. The Macallan Fine Oak 10-Year-Old ($41) is the closest there is to a summer Scotch, with a whiff of leather in the bouquet and a hint of caramel in the finish. 
 
Rum loves the sun, and the lively Bacardi Oakheart ($15) gives a great little kick to your Cuba Libra. 10 Cane ($30) is made from fresh sugar cane juice with a touch of extra old rum. Appleton 12-Year-Old Rum ($42) makes me feel close to Jamaica, with a playful bite up front and a banana and vanilla finish. It’s dear, but Ron Abuelo Centuria ($130) is amazing. A wave of buttery oak leaves behind a medley of spice notes. 
 
For tequila, I enjoy Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Silver ($53) with its pleasant grapefruit finish. Herradura Silver ($40) brings out the best in the agave, proof that quality tequila doesn’t have to be aged to drink neat. And Patron XO Dark Cocoa ($25) takes the nighttime chill out of your bones, even if it comes from sitting too close to the air conditioner. 
 
For oenophiles, summer is a time to grab a crisp white, like the Kim Crawford 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($19), a refined wine from New Zealand with cherry flavors. The elegant Robert Mondavi Reserve Fumé Blanc ($40) from California has an aroma of country air and flavors of apple and pear. And I love Veuve Clicquot Rosé ($70), with its tiny bubbles and dry, fruity notes. 
 
Summer doesn’t last long so drink it in while you can. 

BlackBook Welcomes Summer With Help From Patron and Philanthro Productions

Last night, BlackBook brought out some of New York’s trendiest to kick off the summer right. At the new swanky and sophisticated Haven on the Sanctuary Hotel rooftop, 200 industry tastemakers and influencers came out to celebrate the summer with BlackBook‘s Summer Kick-Off party brought to you by Patron and Philanthro Productions.

Invitees took in the NYC skyline while enjoying beats by DJ Ani Quinn. Quests were also treated to specialty cocktails by Patron and Ultimat Vodka. Patron-flavored popsicles were on hand to cool down the scene.

Special thanks to photographer Karl Ferguson

A Supreme Stash of Winter Spirits

Who needs central heating when you can blow your bonus on premium spirits that will have you feeling toasty inside and out? Here’s a baker’s dozen that will keep you warm and happy until the first buds of spring appear.

I don’t normally love holiday beers – enough with the cloves already – but Samuel Adams Griffin’s Bow Ale ($7) hits all the right citrus and floral notes. To really get in the spirit, pop a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage 2004 ($75). It’s crisp and balanced with hints of pear and that austere oaky note common to vintage champagnes.

Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey ($32) has complex notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel. It’s a tough southern boy dressed in his Sunday best. Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($35) is earthy and warm, with a whisper of orange and a nice kick. Let the ice melt for five minutes and it’s heaven. I love the new Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky ($40), from its gorgeous amber color to its woody aroma to its vanilla and honey notes. A peppermint nip mellows its peaty undertones.

Winter’s a wonderful time for dark rum, and Bacardi Reserva Limitada ($110) is one of the best, with a smoky bouquet, vanilla and coconut flavors, and subtle sugars that tickle the tip of the tongue. The new Brugal 1888 ($50) is a delightfully smooth rum, with a flawless balance of oaky and sweet. The even newer DonQ Gran Añejo ($60) is a fun rum, sharp and spicy at first, then mellow and sweet.

Vodka knows no season, but Stoli Chocolat Razberi ($24) seems perfect for a snowy night. It smells like Cream Savers and tastes like a fancy box of chocolates. The interplay between flavors makes it quite sexy – put a glass on your nightstand. I wasn’t sure I’d like Patrón XO Cafe ($25), but I do, a lot. Its aroma alone perks you up, and the agave flavor of the tequila melds surprisingly well with the coffee. I’d want this in my rucksack during a cold night in the Sierra Madres.  

Moving up the sweet scale, the new Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice ($20) is everything it should be. The cinnamon knows its boundaries, and the sweet coffee flavor massages the palate. Baileys Irish Cream ($21) has always had a light touch. You can taste the whiskey, but the creaminess makes it the smoothest dram you’ll ever sip. Finally, when you’re really ready to indulge, open a bottle of Godiva Original Chocolate Liqueur ($30). It has a velvety texture and it’s as chocolatey as you’d ever want it to be, yet balanced enough to not be cloying. It’s delicious chilled, mixed in a cocktail, or even poured over ice cream. Feeling cozy yet?

BlackBook Holiday Fête Presented by Patrón @ Stash

Not only did our immortal nightlife columnist Steve Lewis design the interior of Stash, the new cozy crypt tucked beneath Snap and The Darby, but on Wednesday night he filled the joint with his patented raucous rock. The occasion was a holiday party of sorts, sponsored by the generous folks at Patrón.

Mr. Lewis was joined by his fellow 4AM DJ, DJ Sinatra, who played to a crowd that indulged in specially-crafted cocktails. They included the BlackBook Holiday Fête-arita, Patrón Cosmopoliday, and Ultimat BlackBook Buzz. Drinks were soaked up with Patron infused Baked By Melissa cupcakes. Yep, it was that kind of night. The lovely photos you see below were snapped by Julian Cavin, and special thanks go out to STASH and Bloc Group, 4AM, and The Adventure Project, where you can make a donation to help in Haiti. Thank you very much! 

Holiday Gift Guide: Gran Patrón Burdeos

If the tequila drinker in your life graduated from the school of añejo, Gran Patrón Burdeos is what they asked Santa for this year. This limited-quantity handmade añejo tequila is distilled at 55-percent-alcohol volume from the finest blue agave grown in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, and comes in a handcrafted box made from a single piece of black walnut, designed to double as a badass display case for the bar. Gran Patrón Burdeos, $535, PatronSpirits.com.

BlackBook & The Supper Club Celebrate the Holidays at APL

Last night, BlackBook and The Supper Club celebrated the holidays with a special sneak preview of the new Lower East Side den APL, which was designed by our very own renaissance man, Steve Lewis. Delicious hors d’oeuvres were provided by APL Chef Camille Becerra, whose pulled pork tostadas had us hanging by the kitchen door in anticipation of the next batch.

Desserts came courtesy of cupcakes by Melissa and tunes were brought to us by Chelsea Leyland, a pretty blond thing. The Philanthropy partner – because who doesn’t love those – was St. Bernard Project. Check their shizz out here – it’s super rad and fun and also it’s good times! To create a dichotomy of winners and losers, we had a raffle. Shout outs go to La Cage Aux Folles, Chicago, American Idiot, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Addams Family, Million Dollar Quartet, NY Yankees, Patron, and Gevril Watches for not only being totally spontaneous and cool, but also for being friendly! Seriously, this was a good time folks, and it was only made more good by the presence of Patron. Until next time! P.S: Richie Rich was there!!!

Photos by Peter Richardson of SPREADhouse.

BlackBook & Supper Club’s Holiday Fête, My Resolutions

BlackBook teamed up with The Supper Club for a holiday fête and sneak preview of APL, that restaurant my crew and I have been designing at 146 Orchard Street for Camille Becerra and her crew. I actually got invited to this event—usually I’m told about BlackBook events 11 minutes after they begin. I may actually be the black sheep of BlackBook—and that’s OK, I‘ve been called worse. They say it happens, the “not being invited thing,” because I’m rarely at the office, and so they forget. If anything, I have always endeavored to be unforgettable, and so my New Years resolution will be to step up the pace. In the hectic effort to get the place presentable for the event, I was told that a publicist from Think PR, the restaurant’s flack, had severely criticized one of the key design elements and was in a tizzy about it. I get criticized a lot. If I didn’t, I would firmly believe that I wasn’t pushing the envelope as much as I should. I have always taken jabs and answered them. I used to spend hours on the old DBTH site arguing with detractors. Indeed I welcome constructive debate, and can go toe to toe with assholes anytime. I do make mistakes, and relish the opportunity to listen to the critics and possibly learn. However, these remarks irked me. There is nothing about her, from what I have seen, that speaks of any creative talent, education, or experience. I always consider the source of attacks, but despite from where it came, I was—what do they say?—miffed.

Publicists, with some wonderful and brilliant exceptions, are not creatives, and not the stars, and not the celebrities themselves, but mouthpieces and advisers to those who are. People like Nadine Johnson, Kelly Cutrone, and Brad Zeifman and I have had our disagreements, but always face-to-face, or at least phone-to-phone. Their experience and class can make a “NO” sound like a “Thank you so much for asking.” I didn’t like this wannabe talking to my client behind my back. When she showed up 20 minutes before the event, after BlackBook’s event person, the wonderful Jessica Fafara, and I had worked for long hours to get it ready, this PR person came over to say hello. I confronted her about her remarks, and she mumbled, stuttered, fell over words, and tried to deny, but quite poorly. I told her that she might consider changing the name of her company to Think Before You Speak PR and walked away. Later, I was asked by someone close to her “If I was kidding.” I’ve got to work on that part of my resolution: People shouldn’t have to ask if I was kidding or not. I’m sure she knew that I wasn’t, but if she didn’t, because her ego or brain got in the way of the truth, I’m sure she knows now. There is no need to name names here. She isn’t that big of a deal, and I’ve given her 15 minutes of fame after she gave me 15 minutes of her lame excuses and half truths, but I have this “step it up” New Years resolution thing happening, and I need to practice.

Anyway, the party was fabulous. The food was marvelous and the crowd near the kitchen door was voracious. I grabbed my chow down in the kitchen before the servers made their way up to the soiree. Mark Baker understood the Tibetan influences in the color scheme. I love Mark Baker. He so often sees what the others don’t, and he’s such a gentleman. He loves introducing me to people I have known for years, and always has this two minute spiel about each one of us that communicates how wonderful we truly are. He would be such a great publicist. Richie Rich and I had a few solid minutes together. I go back to day one in New York for him, and we’ve worked together for years. These days we often find ourselves in the same room, but the clamor of the cocktail event rarely leaves time for real conversations. We talked of our innocence so many years ago. I told him that I really wasn’t that innocent, although I swear I was not guilty. We talked of long gone friends and legacy, and then talked some more. He was always above and a bit removed from the fray. He was always an honest broker. He was always more fun than the rest, without the baggage.

Mr. Baker introduced me to Ms. Tamsin Lonsdale, who doesn’t need a publicist to say she’s a lady. I so enjoyed meeting her in person, although we seem to have been Facebook friends all along. This event at APL was for her amazing international creation, The Supper Club. I’m going to interview her real soon, but I want to tell you a bit about her right now. Her publicist or assistant forwarded me this:

The Supper Club is a member’s only social association bringing together talented and like-minded individuals for exclusive salon-style soirees in alluring locales across the globe. Reviving the traditional ways of entertaining in a fresh, unconventional way, founder and British entrepreneur Tamsin Lonsdale hosts multiple private events each month at the newest restaurants in the city and gorgeous estates and residencies, and least likely of places to charm the charismatic and connected crowd that makes up our membership base. With high-style, a discerning palate, and a unique sense of whimsy, The Supper Club is now serving London, New York, Los Angeles, and beyond.

The shindig was sponsored by Patron, with Cupcakes by Baked by Melissa and Bon Bons and Hors d’oeuvres by Chef Camille Becerra. Most importantly, there was a philanthropy partner attached to the event. The St. Bernard Project, which provides real homes to real people, was on hand to tell of their good work. Check them out.

BlackBook Celebrates the Protest Issue @ SL

Last night, in the bowels of the Meatpacking District, a few hundred people showed up because we decided to throw ourselves a little jam, again. This time, the occasion was our November issue, better known as The Protest Issue, starring cover girl Freida Pinto. SL, that sleek, subterranean den was the gracious host, and Patron, that slick, smooth tequila was the sponsor. Anna Cavazos took care of the tunes, and we took care of the rest. Check out the exclusive photo gallery, portraits coming courtesy of Zhanyi Jiang.