How did Chefs Club come to be?
Our first location was Aspen, where we opened in 2012. We are in partnership with Food and Wine magazine, serving inventive recipes from its Best New Chefs. We celebrated our first anniversary in New York in November.
What led to the creation of the Hospitality Alliance?
When you look at the vast size and scope of the New York City hospitality industry, it’s larger than many states. There are more than 24,000 eating and drinking establishments in the five boroughs.
How did you start out in the food business?
My family’s from Ohio and food was a really big central part of our daily lives. You meet up around food; you cook food and bring it to other people. Food continued to be a really big part of our family life so I fell in love with food and feeding others at a very early age...
How did you get into the Foodservice industry?
I was born in Dorchester, MA one of nine siblings; I spent lots of time in the family kitchen with my mother Alma. At the age of 11 or 12, I fell in love with food over a simple Eggplant Parmesan sandwich at a friends’ house. My cooking was influenced by the Sunday suppers at home with family and friends. I always loved cooking and began working as a caterer while I was in school. From there, I worked my way up at various restaurants, cooking in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C...
Your family has been in the restaurant business since 1890. Tell me a little about your growth and how the firm grew from beyond Manhattan and into the catering business, for example?
The company was founded by Maxwell Lessing in 1890 and is operated to this day by 15 family members representing three generations of Lessing’s. Our highly diversified company feeds more than 40,000 guests a day at over 100 corporate, educational, country club, and manufacturing plant locations throughout the Northeast. Maxwell Lessing was an innovator. He responded to the explosion of the urban worker population in the 1890’s by opening the first convenient lunch counter. By the late 1920’s, Lessing’s was serving meals to New York’s workforce in as many as 20 locations in the financial district and the New York Stock Exchange.
What attracted you both to the restaurant industry?
BB: We love cooking and making people happy. Restaurants were always such a huge part of our childhood, and we had our favorite in every place we used to travel to.
EB: Rocky Aoki of Benihana was a huge inspiration.
Convenience stores have gone from places where you can just buy a big soda to where you might even buy dinner these days. Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) talks about the growth of this “neighborhood” industry.
Not everyone wants to go into the family business. But some, like Alan Rosen know they’re going to do it from just about the day they’re born.
Geoffrey Zakarian is an Armenian-American Iron Chef, restaurateur, television personality and author. He is the executive chef of several restaurants in New York City, Atlantic City and Miami. He's currently starring in the Food Network's top-rated Chopped series.
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As they say, “there’s nothing like mama’s cooking”, and Guy Lombardi knows this first hand. Growing up in Avellino, Italy, Guy was spoiled by his mother’s traditional Italian cooking. At a young age he was exposed to all aspects of the kitchen, helping his mother as much as he could, igniting the passion that has led to the Lombardi Empire that stands today.
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You probably know him from “Restaurant: Impossible,” where he takes a failing one and works a miracle with both the eating establishment and the owners and employees, or his new show, Restaurant Express, where chefs face off for the chance at their dream eatery. Now Robert Irvine is a "Man on a Mission" in Metro New York to let foodservice operators know the benefits of an innovative ice-making subscription program.
What do you get when you take someone versed in government affairs, and restaurant issues? Melissa Autilio Fleischut, who brings her wealth of knowledge about how government works and the ways in which it can help the foodservice industry, a combination that benefits both.
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When Yonkers Raceway fell on hard times, the Rooney family came up with the idea to add a casino, as it had been doing in Pittsburgh and other places. In the beginning, the family didn’t focus too much on food and beverage, knowing that most of the people coming to the Empire City Casino were there just for the gaming.
How did you get into the industry?
By chance, I literally started working as a receptionist in 1977 at the Larchmont Yacht Club and worked there through college right through my time at Arizona State. I progressed and ended up being the Maitre d' and Captain. To tell you the truth I grew up in very modest means and I though that if I worked at a club I would learn how people of wealth and successful means were made and that it would rub off on me and with that would come the key to wealth.
What prompted the creation of ROC?
9/11, on September 11, there was a restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, Tower 1. And there were 72 workers who died that morning in the restaurant. And about 250 workers who lost their jobs. And so we started the organization initially to support the workers who had lost their jobs. But we were soon overwhelmed with calls for help from workers. First from all over the city and then all over the country. And that's how ROC grew.
How did you get into the industry?
I originally planned to go to law school after college, but decided to take a summer job working for my grandfather at Admiration Foods after graduation. My grandfather was very old school. He would never give you anything unless you earned it. It didn't matter that I was his grandchild, if I wanted to get paid I had to prove myself to him. I enrolled in a business law and an accounting class, and he started to include me as an integral member of his executive team.