This Week’s NY Happenings: The DeKalb Classic, Meatball Slapdown, ‘Mad Men’ Premiere

TONIGHT: No-Fooling April Cocktails For DeKalb Ave.
Spring has sprung in Fort Greene, with glasses being raised tonight for inaugural cocktail competition The DeKalb Classic. Local faves like Madiba, Roman’s, and Chez Oskar will be throwing down for best bartender and cocktail crowns. Cornerstone’s entry (pictured) is barkeep Chris Rue’s St. Rue, a bright blend of Greenhook Gin, St. Germain, and lemon, with a vernal sprig of mint. You’ve got a month to track down the five cocktails and place your vote, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

The DeKalb Classic kicks off tonight, April 1st, at 5pm. Cornerstone (271 Adelphi St., Fort Greene) is among the five participating venues. Tickets are $50 and the event runs through the end of the month. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

THURSDAY: Meatball Madness
Look for an all-out meatball royal battle as local superstars like Buttermilk Channel, M. Wells Dinette, and Prime Meats square off for sphere supremacy at the Meatball Slapdown. Ted Allen is among the celeb judges; host Brooklyn Brewery will keep the suds flowing.

The 4th Annual Meatball Slapdown at Brooklyn Brewery (79 N. 11th St., Williamsburg) starts Thursday, April 4th, at 7pm. Tickets are $50 for all you can eat and drink, with the proceeds going to charity. To learn more about the brewery, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

SUNDAY: Hamm And Whiskey
Where better to catch the premiere of Mad Men season six than a swank, Midtown lounge? Whiskey Park will do the honors, with themed cocktails, a trivia contest, and guests decked out in their swinging ’60s best.

The Mad Men viewing party at Whiskey Park (100 Central Park So., Midtown West) starts at 8pm, no reservations required. To learn more about the bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

Be the first to know about the latest openings & events in NYC by signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings email & downloading the BlackBook City Guides app for iPhone and Android.

Industry Insiders: Raphael Chejade-Bloom, Mr. Hospitality

As managing partner and director of marketing and entertainment at Gerber Group, Raphael Chejade-Bloom is in charge of the guest experience for the company’s many sleek nightspots, including the new Lilium at the W New York – Union Square. We asked him to divulge a few secrets to staying on the top of the nightlife game, and he didn’t disappoint. 

 
Where are you from?
I was born in San Diego, went to high school in Princeton, New Jersey, and college at American University in Washington, D.C.
 
Do you consider yourself an East Coast or a West Coast guy? Your temperament is kind of laid-back, but you do have that New York energy.  
That’s what I like to be. I have a funny, laid-back West Coast disposition, but I had some formative years on the East Coast. I can’t exactly say that Princeton was much for cutting my teeth, but it was better than hanging out on the beach all day.
 
How long have you been with the Gerber Group?
It’s been three years this month.
 
What is your job title and your main responsibilities?
I am the managing partner and director of marketing and entertainment. Day to day, I oversee everything consumer-related for the company throughout all of our properties. I work a lot with strategic partnerships and I’m booking all the entertainment. I like to say that if Gerber Group is a bar, I’m doing the front of the house.
 
When you book entertainment are you talking about DJs or live acts?
Both. We’ve had a lot of success in the last couple years doing live music. We try to work with artists before they get huge. One example would be Jessie J. We had her perform live for the first time in the United States before her album dropped. I think she did SNL a month later, so that was exciting for us. We’ve been doing a lot of events with artists who come in and do a show and then they will do a DJ set and then throw an after-party at one of our venues. We’ve had Foster the People. We’ve had Iron & Wine, and by the time this runs we will have had Young the Giant.
 
Do you work with all the venues—every Gerber venue in New York and beyond?
I oversee the entire portfolio. I do have a very dear friend by the name of Rob Goldstein and he is the southeast marketing director and I oversee his work, but he is pretty much running point in Atlanta, where he lives, Fort Lauderdale, and New Orleans.
 
The Gerber Group strikes a nice balance in New York nightlife. All of its bars are upscale and special-feeling, but there’s never a sense of snobbery at the door. They’re pretty welcoming.
Thank you. We are definitely not in the business of exclusivity. We are in the business of longevity. Consistency is key for us. It’s the benchmark of our brand. We are a classic brand, and we’ve been around for twenty years. We celebrated our twentieth anniversary last year and I think the welcoming attitude comes from the top. I’ve been taught that this is a business of hospitality first and foremost, and that’s what’s going to perpetuate the brand for another twenty years. 
 
This might be a sensitive question, but which is your favorite Gerber bar?
I am a little biased because I started as a manager at Whiskey Park, so I really like that one. It’s kind of the Cheers of the portfolio. Lilium is quickly becoming a favorite as well, because everyone loves the redo of the former Underbar. But Whiskey Park is where we all go if there’s a Giants game on or if we are going to hang out and just relax.
 
The music at Lilium is really great. The tracks they pick really hit the right notes. It’s such a comfortable place to hang out at, yet still quite chic.
Funny story. Before Lilium opened, I sent out an email to all of the top DJs throughout the company, and I said that we were opening this new bar and I want everyone to get together at Whiskey Park so we can do a musical test run. I want you to give your interpretation of a one-hour set for a Sunday night at Lilium. We tried to keep it under wraps, but I got a call from our corporate office saying that someone just called asking if they could enter our DJ battle that we were having at Whiskey Park for Lilium. And I’m like, what’s going on here? And I guess somehow it had leaked to a New York nightlife blog, which posted “DJ Battle at Whiskey Park for New Lilium DJ,” so that was pretty funny. The point is that we went above and beyond to make sure that the sound was right. And that’s for our core hours. We have extended our music offering on Friday and Saturday nights after 11 pm because people want to hear different things. But when you are going in there for our core customer hours – after work on a Tuesday or Wednesday, for example – you are going to hear the Lilium soundtrack, which I appreciate that you liked.
 
Any particularly memorable moments in the line of work?
I think having Foster the People at The Living Room at the W Times Square was pretty exciting. We had decided to pump a little more energy into the bar, and that opportunity came about with perfect timing. We had a line down the block. Foster was really hitting their stride at the time. It was right after BlackBook did its bit with us and Foster the People and they were right at the point of breaking out. It was really exciting. And then, on our twentieth anniversary, we had Fitz and the Tantrums perform live at Stone Rose Lounge, so that was pretty great. More recently, during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, we did the after-party for Betsey Johnson. Stone Rose Lounge was the official lounge for Fashion Week, and that was a formidable party. It was probably the most packed that I have ever seen Stone Rose.
 
Do you enjoy what you do? Are you having fun?  
Absolutely. I love the camaraderie of this business. That is really the most exciting thing. And, you know, I look at myself really as an industry apprentice. I’ve got great people that I work with. Scott is an amazing mentor. I feel very, very lucky. 
 
What are the most challenging parts of your job? What takes the most leg work to accomplish?
Keeping up with the programming can be a challenge. Everyone in the nightlife business is fighting with each other to get the hottest new act, the best new DJ, the new acoustic set, or the most exciting impromptu performance. The challenge for someone like me in the marketing space is maintaining the right energy and keeping consistent with the core values of our business.
 
A lot of people would like to do what you do. What advice would you give to a younger person that wants to get into the space that you’re in? What do you need to know to succeed?
Much of it is maintaining a sense of hospitality. You have to be wired for this business. Yes, at times you’re attached to your phone, but more often than not, you have to be receptive to personally interacting with people. If you’re a nice person and you enjoy taking care of people, you can go far.
 
What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies or leisure activities that help you unwind?
I love working out and running, and I definitely like to spend my time exploring and traveling. I am a huge travel junkie. Last year I went to so many music festivals and special events, everywhere from Art Basel to Night Club and Bar in Vegas to Coachella, South by Southwest, Ultra, Lollapalooza. This year I will be going back to Coachella and back to South by Southwest. Anywhere I can go I’ll go. It’s important to get out of the city sometimes. 

DJ Danny Rockz On Life As a Professional Party Starter

Tucked behind a booth, with his headphones, signage-emblazoned laptop, and two-disc turntable, stands the up-and-coming leader of the New York party scene: DJ Danny Rockz. Seen – and heard – at his resident spot at Provocateur, as well as such lauded New York hotspots 1OAK, The Darby, and Gansevoort Park,  this master of the mixes subconsciously dictates the tone and rhythm of our every groove, drink, and dance floor- rendezvous. Where there’s slamming tunes, there’s Danny Rockz. 

First things first: where did your name come from?
My DJ name was actually a nickname from high school, I had a few people that used to call me: D Rockz, I simply expanded that to Danny Rockz.
 
How did you first get involved in DJing?
It was something I started in high school. Freshman year I would go weekly and collect vinyls. It was kind of like a side hobby, something I was always interested in but I never directly involved myself in until college, when I got thrown into it. I was more into hosting parties with a friend of mine, and then one day our DJ didn’t show up, and my friend was like, "We really need a DJ for tonight, you have to take over." From that night on, I got thrown into it and I really started to enjoy it.
 
What where some of your first gigs?
The first residency I had in 2010 was with the Gerber Group. I was doing Whiskey Park for them on Fridays, playing all indie-dance and rock and roll, which built into doing Provocateur, which is my main place. I’ve been at Provocateur now for well over a year and a half, four nights a week. That’s my home away from home. I love the venue, the people, the staff. I don’t like their exclusive door policy, but if that’s the worst of it, I’ll take it.
 
Do you ever DJ out of town?
Yeah, out of town my main section is the Dominican Republic. The guys down there are so nice, the people are amazing, the food, the weather.
 
What’s the New York DJ scene like?
It’s just so flooded and crazy. You have to make yourself stand out in some way. I was honestly borderline going to give it up at the end of 2009; I had a full-time job, granted I wasn’t that happy doing that but I also wasn’t really that happy with the way the DJ world was going…the parties I was doing, the caliber of the people. So in 2010, I clean-slated everything; I dropped my job, stopped DJing, and just so happened to break-up with my girlfriend. I took the first two months of 2010 to think about what I want to do, what direction I want to head in. I started with a whole new image, new music format, started doing parties that I like, playing music I like, and it all just grew from there. The venues just started coming in.
 
What kind of music do you play now? What’s your sound?
I like playing a good rock and roll, indie-type set. I also like doing a true open format set where it’s not so slanted toward one particular genre or another, where it gives people a real diverse mix. I’ll play a few hip- hop songs, a few ’80s, ’90s, ’70s, ’50s, ’60s, house, rock, everything.
 
Is this influenced by what you grew up listening to?
All the music my parents and grandparents used to play, I despised. They listened to everything, from Sinatra, to Dean Martin, disco, to rock ‘n’ roll, ’90s dance, such a diverse mix. And I think that’s what’s affected me, because it’s all the music I like that now. I laugh about it now, because I go from hating it, to loving it, to playing it.
 
Besides the music you play, how else do you stand out in the flooded scene?
With your look, the job you do, your personality. Personality is the one thing I feel like a lot of people lack. Most people that stand out, stand out for a reason, and personality definitely plays a role. I’ve come across people that are looking to make it in the industry and it’s like talking to a serial killer or something.  
 
Ha! What do you say to them?
I’m like, "I have no idea what you’re doing, but you’re obviously in the wrong field. You need to be outgoing, you need to be enthusiastic." Everyone has their bad days, but if you go into this market with a negative outlook and negative mindset, or if you’re just a negative person, it’s really not a good way to go. You’ll be sick before you even get started.
 
How do you balance the pre-party music prep with your DJ hours? 
I DJ from 11pm-3am or 4am, but all the pre-party work that goes into it all is a full-time job in and of itself during the day. I pre-arrange the music before the party so I can just go to this one crate, organize new music, search for new stuff to play. One of my roommates has witnessed me doing an eight-to-nine hour shift, just searching for new songs.
 
How do you find new music?
I’ll go through different blogs in French, Spanish, Russian; you name the language and I’ve probably been on a blog that’s in that language. I’ve found some amazing music, some alright music. Most of my music comes from there. I buy stuff from iTunes, Beatport, websites like Hype Machine. Sometimes even YouTube, believe it or not. I’ll type in an artist or remix that I like and I’ll see what comes up in the suggestions and go through those.
 
And do you let those people know that you’re playing their song?
That’s the thing, it’s sketchy. As long as you’re not selling it or giving it away as a promotional tool, supposedly you’re in the clear. But that’s also why I put it on websites like Dubset; supposedly the artists get some money out of it all.
 
I’d imagine, even if you have most of the party music prepared, you’re constantly looking ahead to the next song just in case you change things up. 
Yeah, I like to be two songs ahead in my mind, so I have one song playing, one song queued up, and I’m looking at the song after that and the song after that. I bring a folder, and I’ll have them arranged in a specific order, start the party off at a modest vibe, and then build the energy up and maybe do a little rollercoaster effect where you have your ups and downs.
 
How are you hired for these parties?
Networking. Being social. I talk to people, meet people, follow-through. A lot of times you have to stay on top of people, but in the sense that you’re not overwhelming or creepy about it. You just want to be cool, just say, "Hey, what’s going on? How are you we going to make this happen," and it’s also hard too because a lot of people like to go for a manager, have somebody represent them. Now, I’m debating taking on a manager. I’ve basically done everything myself.
 
Is that rare?
It is kind of rare, especially to be working this much. One weird thing I don’t do that lots of DJs are involved in is this whole PR scene. They like to have themselves in huge papers and what-not. I’ve never been about that, not because I have anything against it, just because I feel like it doesn’t do anything for me and it’s a little tacky sometimes.
 
What’s the craziest experience you’ve had DJing?
I’ve seen everything I could possibly see. For me to see something that shocks me nowadays, it would have to be over-the-top. I couldn’t even put it into words what it would have to be. I’ve seen people get hit with everything in fights – tables, chairs, bottles- to people getting knocked-out. Years ago, I saw people get shot and stabbed.
 
Stabbed??
But I’ve also seen nice things, where people at partiespropose. Off-hand, one of my favorite parties was a corporate party for Halloween during that crazy snow storm. I thought no one would show up; the weather was horrendous, they were expecting 200 people. All 200 people came, in costume, ready to rage, at 8pm. It was the most amazing holiday party I’ve ever DJed in my life. They were such an exciting crowd. One guy dressed up in this wolf costume. It was an amazing outfit, and I kept playing the A-Track song "The Big Bad Wolf." Just imagine this guy in a wolf outfit, jumping around the room, people cheering him on, people getting hyped and crazier and crazier.
 
What’s the one song everyone wants to sing to, dance to, hear?
There are so many songs, it depends on the party. My new thing now is playing songs like "Rockefeller Skank" by Fatboys Slim. It’s such a ’90s breakbeat-ish song, but it has such energy and I love watching people rock out to this, saying, "I haven’t heard this song in so long!"
 
Do you write any music yourself? Play an instrument?
I used to play piano a little bit, but now I’m getting into music production which is pretty crazy. There’s a lot that goes into that. I’m gonna be creating my own tracks from scratch. I do it all at home using Logic.
 
Do you feel comfortable in the scene now?
Yeah, I’m very content. I’m happy to see how this year alone, my stats and traffic have grown on things like Dubset and my Twitter.
 
You are the one of the most prolific Tweeters I’ve ever seen.
I just try to be random and put whatever is on my mind at that time. I’ll mention music, parties I’m doing. Watching lots of growth makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I’m heading in a good direction.
 
What do you like to do in your spare time?
This past week, the only night I had off was Sunday, and I was looking forward to lying in my bed, watching a movie, and that’s it. This winter, I plan on doing several ski trips. I love just being outdoors. I do a lot of walking. Sometimes I’ll just find myself roaming around town for the heck of it, even if it’s just to clear my head.
 
I’m sure you have lots of followers and groupies. What’s the most memorable thing someone has said to you while DJing?
I had someone tell me recently they watched me DJ for a whole night and said, "I’ve seen other DJs play often, and I’ve never seen anyone quite as happy as you. You just have the cutest smile on your face the whole night." That made me feel really good. It’s definitely my happy spot.

Vinny From ‘Jersey Shore’ Gets Toasty at Whiskey Park

What’s it like to have drinks with one of the most famous people in the world? Well, if that famous person is Vinny Guadagnino, who’s known for his work on a little MTV show called Jersey Shore, it’s surprisingly normal. He is, anyway. I can’t say the same for the hordes of people who surrounded our banquette at Whiskey Park, a sleek lounge in Midtown Manhattan where we met to sample a selection of spirited cocktails suited to the winter season.

Nobody noticed him at first—he arrived all alone—but once photographer Aaron Richter started snapping photos the cat was out of the bag. Before long, the cell phone cameras came out, along with the business-card wielding dude who works in merchandising and "thinks the show is great and would love do something together.” But amid the din, I enjoyed a few moments with a genuinely kind and thoughtful guy from Staten Island who graduated from college with a 3.9 GPA, attended bartending school, and feels deeply about his work with anti-bullying and gay rights initiatives. “Kids are getting bullied to the point where they’re killing themselves, and it breaks my heart,” Guadagnino says. “I realize that I have a big voice, so I’m doing what I can to help.” Over the course of the evening, we enjoyed the libations created by the lovely Sami Silbert, whose inventive takes on ingredients like cinnamon, apple, and bacon (yes, bacon) conjured the warmth of an open fire while still getting the party started nicely, no fist-pumping required.
 
Cocktail 1 Sparkling Apple Cider
 
Cocktail #1 – Sparkling Apple Cider
Combine 1.5 oz Captain Morgan rum, 1.5 oz apple cider, touch of simple syrup and cinnamon powder in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into champagne flute and top with Champagne.
“I’m not used to drinking so early in the evening. I usually start at like 2:00 a.m. because I tend to drink in crazy club scenarios – it’s extreme or nothing for me. This drink reminds me of apple pie. It feels like Champagne at first, then the apple and cinnamon come in and give it a seasonal taste. I like it a lot.”
 
Cocktail 2 Whiskey Smash
 
Cocktail #2 – Whiskey Smash
Muddle 2 oz Jim Beam bourbon, 3 lemon wedges, and 3 dashes of bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake, and pour into rocks glass. Top with ginger ale.
“I’m a big fan of whiskey, so I like it. This one is stronger and more bitter than the last—it’s not a drink I could pound. It’s lemony, and it does have that winter feeling. There’s a lot going on in this glass. Incidentally, I went to bartending school in Staten Island, and I passed the final test. But my school was so outdated that I was making drinks like Pink Cadillacs, Rusty Nails, and Rob Roys. The week I graduated they got a new textbook with all the modern cocktails.”
 
Cocktail 3 Cinnamon Margarita
 
Cocktail #3 – Cinnamon Margarita
Combine 2 oz Don Julio Añejo tequila, 2 oz orange juice, and a pinch of cinnamon powder in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into margarita glass. Top with flaming shot of Cointreau and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
“This reminds me of those cinnamon challenge videos on YouTube, where guys dare their girlfriends to eat a spoonful of cinnamon and they freak out. It’s not that extreme, but it’s got a kick. I can see how these are fall and winter drinks. This would be good for dessert.”
 
Cocktail 4 Bacon Bloody Mary
 
Cocktail #4 – Bacon Bloody Mary
Pour 2 oz Finlandia vodka into an ice-filled tall glass. Fill with Bloody Mary mix and stir. Rim glass with bacon salt and garnish with olives.
“It’s spicy. The bacon salt reminds me of barbecue potato chips. Bloody Marys in general skeeve me out, but the fact that the bacon salt is on the rim is pretty cool. When I mix drinks it’s usually something like Captain Morgan and ginger ale, or Patron and pineapple.”
 
 
Cocktail 5 Bacon and Eggs
 
Cocktail #5 – Bacon & Eggs
Muddle 2 oz of Woodford Reserve bourbon and 2 pieces of cooked bacon in a cocktail shaker. Let the bacon sit with bourbon for five minutes, then add ice and 1 oz maple syrup. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. On the side, shake whipped egg whites and sugar and float on top. Garnish with half slice of bacon.
“I don’t want dead pig floating around in my drink, but egg whites do make everything good. I respect the effort.”
 
Cocktail 6 Fall Berry
 
Cocktail #6 – Fall Berry
Muddle 2 oz Patron silver, about 15 blueberries, and one spring of fresh tarragon in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, splash of white cranberry juice, and splash of fresh lime juice. Shake and strain over fresh ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a lime slice.
“This is really refreshing. It reminds me of when I go down to Miami Beach and drink raspberry mojitos. It’s quite good.”
 
[All Photos by Aaron Richter]
 
Vinny and Victor at Whiskey Park

Halloween at Stone Rose NYC

We assume you’re already deep into your Halloween planning. What comical yet topical costume idea have you chosen to embrace this year, you clever little minx? Let’s hope it involves smeary makeup and/or stifling latex. Regardless, as always, it doesn’t really matter so much who you are as much as where you are, and one stellar where-to-be this ‘Ween will be New York’s Stone Rose.

It’s a pretty straightforward proposal – the Stone Rose is clubbing out for the night, with 5 DJs for 5 hours, “costume preferred,” from 10pm to 3am. And of course, should you choose to venue-hop, other prominently enjoyable Gerber Group properties are also sporting Access Perks for happy users of our very own BlackBook Guide for iPhone. Check out a special $10 Guava Sin cocktail at Whiskey Park, $5 Shots of Herradura Silver (Sunday-Thursday only, sorry) at Underbar, and 15% tequila and whiskey flights at LEX Bar. Treat, trick, take your pleasure. RSVP to {encode=”srevents@gerberbars.com” title=”srevents@gerberbars.com”}.

The Stag-at Guide: Whiskey Park

Now this is more like it! Whiskey Park has a bitch “hitting refresh on Craigslist’s Missed Connections all morning.” Apparently some “Bergdorf blondes” were well aware that single men, “healthy, wealthy and charming as all-get-out,” abound here. Sitting magically “across the street from The Ritz in Glittery Trump Tower” where “a dozen horses and carriages wait outside to sweep new – and thoroughly Congac’d – lovers off their (fingers crossed!) soon-to-be Louboutined feet,” this is the place to go if you’re starting to give up hope. That is if you like men who “live upstairs, you’ll love the view”, wear “Marc Jacobs button-downs with cufflinks from Etsy” and would love to “get you a box on opening day but you gotta consider it a date.” Where do I sign?

Comfort level for a single lady(1-30): 30 Drinks purchased for a single lady: One 15 dollar Manhattan with a “pshhhh, whatever it’s nothin’.” Male to female ratio: 2:1 Single to couple ratio: 3:1 Overheard: “Shit, she’s leaving. Shit. Shit man, those boots. Shit.” – Some dude to his pals as I left. I don’t care if they might not have been talking about me, a girl can dream. Chances of returning (1-30): 30. Is two nights in a row pushing it?

An Interview with Gerber Group’s Mystery Man, Scott Gerber

A few years back, when I was a partner in SLDesign, I had the pleasure of working with Scott and Rande Gerber, who hired us to work on their rooftop at the W Hotel Buckhead. Rande Gerber is, of course, that former ex-model who is married to Cindy Crawford and is the face of such brands as the Whiskey, Whiskey Blue, Whiskey Sky, Whiskey Park, Whiskey Bar and Grill, Wetbar, Underbar…you get the idea. He also heads up those Stone Rose joints. With somewhere near 30 properties worldwide, Gerber Group is one of the world’s top hospitality brands.

The Gerber group just opened three new venues in the new W Santiago and a Stone Rose Bar and Grill at the JFK Delta terminal. They also offer the midnight bar collection, which is a complete line of seven essential cocktail mixers “made with all the finest all natural ingredients.” With all these amazing achievements and projected developments, Rande Gerber and the Gerber group are household names. However, my Chihuahua has almost as much name recognition as Rande’s brother and partner Scott Gerber.

A google search of his name took me to a ton of Rande links. But Scott Gerber is responsible for directing all of the business operations, including new business development, negotiating partnerships, liaison with property owners, overseeing management and coordinating construction of the properties. He is a gentleman and a scholar with a BS in finance from the University of Arizona. I caught up with Scott yesterday and shot him a couple of questions. He’s a very busy guy.

I googled you and found practically nothing. It basically just refers people to your brother Rande or the Gerber group. Why do you prefer being in the background? It’s much safer that way. [Laughs]. I run the business end of the business. Rande is more involved with the design and aesthetic.

We all know that Rande is much more than just a pretty face. Is there a clear separation of duties? Yes, there’s a clear delineation. Rande wouldn’t get involved with the day-to-day operations.

How many places are you operating and how many more are in the works? We operate 30 properties and we’re having conversations about 10 more. Probably we’ll start up 5 of these this year.

This JFK Stone Rose Bar and Grill fascinates me. Nowhere in my experience is food and service worse than at an airport. I guess that’s changing. Tell me about your synergy with Delta. Our midnight bar collection is being served on Delta flights. Instead of just getting a little bottle and a mixer we make margaritas and cosmos. We teamed with Delta on this and it’s an in-flight revolution. I travel every other week and I know what has been available to a traveler. Were often waiting for a plane for one, two or even five hours. At Stone Rose we have a full bar and menu so you have a relaxed and stylish spot while you are waiting. Our menu gives you a great sandwich or steak and a variety of bites like buffalo mozzarella salad, buffalo wings. Much more than the typical traveling fare.

I guess with increased security we are all forced to spend more time in the airports waiting. Did that extra time factor into your decision to open an airport location? Of course. Travelers are told to be there two hours before their flight. Everyone comes at least one hour early. We wanted to provide something besides the cheesy places that are currently the norm. You can now get a great drink and food while you wait for your plane. Delta asked us to get involved as they try to take their brand more upscale. They even have David Barton exercise facilities at their terminal at JFK.

As hospitality drives the major hotel chains, the Gerber group is the big kid on the block. The Stone Rose in JFK raises the bar and creates a whole new market for food and beverage brands. I’m sure that very soon other hospitality groups will get into the act. Will it be long before we see Pure at the Las Vegas airport? Or Tao, LAX? How about La Esquina, LaGuardia? Customers want things the way they want them, and that means everywhere. They want Whole Foods not Met Foods. They want high end design and style in their boutique hotel, not just in the room, but in the clubs and restaurants that bring the beautiful locals to them. Luxury, boutique brands, with increasingly enhanced amenities, will be available to them wherever they go. Thank god I have a place to hang and eat at JFK. The Delta brand means something more to me today than it did the last time I traveled. What a great idea. If I ever find myself in Santiago, Chile, maybe visiting my friend Lindsey Risk, I’ll stay at The W and visit the Gerber Group’s Whiskey Blue, W Lounge and Red 2 One. I know I can expect high design, great service and an understanding of my needs.

A First-Timer’s Field Guide to the Ballet

Let’s give a warm welcome to fall, which along with introducing you to your new fall wardrobe could also introduce you to the ballet, as the new season for the American Ballet Theater commences this week. If you lean more towards action movies and indie bands, getting decked out to make a pilgrimage to the uncharted wilds of the Upper West Side could feel a bit out of character. As daunting as trading in Converse All-Stars for conservative kitten heels seems, the ABT is something all New Yorkers should branch out and try. It’s recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world. A living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours the United States performing for more than 600,000 people, and it’s the only major cultural institution to do so. The ABT has also made more than 15 international tours to 42 countries, and this October the company returns home to Manhattan. Twenty-one-year-old Daniil Simkin, an award-winning veteran of the stage since the age of six, offers up his advice to a ABT virgin — or those with a serious aversion to men in tights.

So what do I have to dig out of my closet to wear to the ballet? Is it an excuse to get all dressed up? One wears definitely something elegant. I prefer dark colors. Depending on personality, something extravagant or flashy should work, too. A general outline would be: as long as you would wear it to a nice dinner, it should work. For everyday wear, I really like the clothes at G-Star. For something more extravagant , my go-to store is Emporio Armani.

Recommendations: Bergdorf Goodman (Midtown East) – The perfect afternoon destination for ladies who lunch. ● Blue&Cream (East Village) – This venue is the perfect place to really show off your style. Access Perk: 50% off a Lamptons Hoody. ● Intermix (Upper East Side) – Access Perk: Receive a $50 discount with any purchase of $300 or more at this one-stop shopping mecca for city fashionistas.

Where should one go to have a few drinks before the show? If the weather is nice, definitely go the Rooftop Terrace at the Empire Hotel right in front of the Lincoln Center.

Recommendations:Whiskey Park (Upper West Side) – Access Perk: 30% off your bill at this place for posh sips. ● Cleopatra’s Needle (Upper West Side) – Nothing to text home about, but if you’re up here, you might as well get in here. Cozy jazz scene that will make you seem cultured, even if it’s just your dress. ● P.J. Clarke’s at Lincoln Square (Upper West Side) – When you’re dolled up, step into the newest branch of this uptown classic. Enjoy your ballet with a side of burger.

I’m totally new to ABT; what would you recommend to newbies like me? For first-time ballet watchers, I would recommend the pirate tale of Le Corsaire. It is an easy to follow story about a pirate who falls in love with a beautiful slave girl. The production has strong pirates, gunshots, beautiful women in gorgeous costumes, and great scenery. If you prefer something less Hollywood-esque, go for our all-Balanchine evening.

What has been your favorite part? I also really like Le Corsaire because I like to perform the role of Lankendem — the bad guy who tries to kill his friend and steal the girl. I am able to have more fun on stage when I play the bad guy. I also really enjoyed dancing the lead role in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, which I did for the first time in May.

What are some helpful tips that can keep me from looking like a fool? Before the curtain goes up, there are three bells, normally sounded by the ushers. By the time the bell rings for the third time, you should move towards your seats. Normally the evening starts with a short overture by the orchestra before the actual dancing begins.

It seems like the evening is pretty long; what if I need a drink? Usually the evening is divided into two to three parts with an intermission of 20 minutes in between. Snacks and drinks are available during the intermissions and before the shows at various spots outside the seating areas.

How long are we talking here? Generally speaking, an evening last from two to three hours.

So, while I’m having cocktails in a nice outfit before the show, what are you doing? There is a long and complicated routine before every performance. You have to be in hair, make-up, and costume for the show. But most importantly, the dancer must be properly warmed up. If you are not, the probability of suffering from an injury is heightened. There is a half-hour call where all stagehands and dancers need to report to the stage to make sure everyone is where they need to be. That is also when the audience starts to be seated. We all warm up and feel out the stage starting at that time and prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally to take the stage for that evening.

What’s the atmosphere like backstage? Backstage I have to say it is not as glorious and imposing as the front of the house. There are costumes in costume racks everywhere, various headpieces for different costumes, props, and sometimes even animals. And there are usually so many people everywhere running around, on and off stage at any point.

After the ballet, where should I go to complete the evening? There quite a few restaurants around the area which also might offer special after-performance dinner. There is a list of them in the program which you will receive while entering the audience area. Personally I can recommend Fiorello’s next to Lincoln Center.

Recommendations:Dovetail (Upper West Side) – Stealth door, only slightly formal, totally modern. ● Compass (Upper West Side) – Access Perk: Enjoy half-price wine on Sunday evenings at this innovative downtown-style New American with an uptown zip code. ● Jean Georges (Upper West Side) – Access Perk: “Half-Glass” Wine Special means you pay half the cost of a normal glass and get a generous half-sized glass of wine.

What are some of your favorite places to eat, whether or not you are in ballet attire? Shake Shack on Columbus. As you might have noticed, I don’t go out much while we are performing at the MET. But I have to say, the best food in the very end is my mother’s. She cooks Russian specialties with a western touch, which is quite unique. There is still no place that comes even close to how she cooks.

What is the best and hardest part of being a part of the ABT? The best part of what I do is doing what I love and being even appreciated for that. The hardest part for me is getting up in the morning.

What do you hope first-timers will find out when they come to see you at the a performance? People will be hopefully love what they see so that the first performance will not be the last.

Atlanta: Top 10 Bartenders

A mixologist who knows his or her way behind the bar can transform a watering hole into a discerning libation destination. Skip the shaker-slinging theatrics and consider one of the following ’tenders whose serious cocktail knowledge always shakes things up.

● Steamhouse Lounge (Midtown) – Oyster haven where Kitty Deal, a 17-year vet, helms the daytime shift. A lounge singer by night, Deal composes cocktails when the sun shines. Her signature is the Goombay Smash, a blend of coconut rum, orange, pineapple and lime juices. She tops it with a dark rum floater. ● Highland Tap (Virginia-Highland) – Venture down into this dimly lit cow palace for a choice hunk of cow and a masterfully prepared cocktail. With any luck you’ll catch Markie Kinsman behind the bar, who’s chalked up 7 years there. Both fellow service industry types and restaurant regulars frequently request Kinsman’s take on the Pink Lemonade in either shot or drink form.

● Trader Vic’s (Atlanta) – Contemplating one of the more than 70 cocktails on the Vic’s list? Try and make sure bar supervisor Joel Lindsey does the mixing. The award-winning barkeep is well-schooled in the Trader Vic’s cocktail philosophy. After all, namesake Victor Bergeron claimed to have invented the Mai Tai. Try the almond-tinged, slightly sour, and totally fruity Samoan Fog Cutter. Many drinks come in decorative glasses, a nod to prefab tiki culture. ● Holeman & Finch Public House (Buckhead) – While many patrons clamor for the burger at this purveyor of whole animal cuisine, others sidle up to the bar for a jolt from mixmaster, Lucas Godfrey. He brings imaginative libations to life like the Johnny Ryall. Cherry liqueur, grapefruit juice and bitters swim with Miller High Life. ● The Clermont Lounge (Poncey-Highland) – Owner Kathy Martin always manages a smile while pouring a Fuck in the Graveyard, a grape soda-like conglomeration of vodka, cranberry juice, blue curacao, and peach, apple and blueberry schnapps. A nightcap at this kitschy and seedy strip parlor should include an encounter with over-50 matriarch Blondie. After decades, she continues crushing beer cans between her boobs, reciting poetry and jacking the jaws of unsuspecting patrons with those mammoth mammaries. ● Repast (Midtown) – The kitchen t.l.c. at this high-ranking foodie retreat overflows into its bar. That’s where head mixologist Kysha Cyrus is known to pour her signature Gus Russet. The bourbon-laced creation features a spiced lemon tea with Thai basil and fresh lime muddled with simple syrup. Once shaken, it sports a reddish-brown color and arrives in a martini glass. ● The Palm (Buckhead) – General manager Willy Cellucci often sheds the corporate trappings and steps behind the bar to whip up Willy’s Pinky. It’s a drink he helped invent during the 1996 Olympics. He fuels it with orange Stoli and a splash of cranberry helps brighten things a bit. Cellucci remains the quintessential drinking buddy with his raspy delivery, quick draw witticisms and a blast of top-shelf booze. ● Whiskey Park (Midtown) – Wade through the throngs of beautiful people and hit the bar for a creation from acclaimed ’tender Dinah Peña. Peña’s partial to martinis, so pick one from the list. All of the ingredients are fresh (basil, mint, mangos and more) and everything, including the sour mix, is made from scratch. She bypasses purees by muddling fruit. ● Drinkshop (Downtown) – A product of international mixologist Sasha Petraske, the bar is overseen by local libation luminary, Eric Simpkins. Get Simpkins to create something using one of the homemade mixers including ginger ale or strawberry lemonade. Or opt for The Bees Knees, a gin-heavy potion teeming with clover honey. ● Bacchanalia (Westside) – As far as alcohol goes, one of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants is best known for its extensive wine list and oh-so-smart stewards. But its bartenders, including Jeff Hagley, pour ace champagne cocktails and other concoctions to compliment a dinner to remember.