World renowned chef Mark Strausman has been with Barneys New York for more than two decades and will guide Barneys’ culinary vision for their national rollout of Freds at Barneys restaurants across the country. The native New Yorker grew up in Queens and has overseen openings of Freds Madison, Beverly Hills, Chicago and most recently Chelsea prior to this national rollout, and will be taking his mastery of culinary skills and restaurant management to new Freds kitchens, including San Francisco and Miami next.
Although he’s always had an interest in culinary arts, Mark Strausman does credit his mother for helping him realize his career path. “When my dad passed away when I was 14, I made a deal with my mother. I told her that I’d cook and she’d clean because I couldn’t eat another piece of chicken breast and frozen fillet of sole again. I always remember watching Julia Child on channel 13 growing up.”
Strausman’s career path to the top culinary post at the iconic retail chain took him to the far corners of the world. After graduating from the fabled City Tech program in Brooklyn, Strausman trained in Germany’s Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, Swiztersland’s Le Montreux Palace and Amsterdam’s Amstel Hotel. In the 1980s, he returned to the States to become the Executive Chef at the Hampton’ Sapore di Mare before opening Campagna in the Flatiron District in 1994.
Barneys has always held a special place in Strausman’s heart, as he vividly recalls purchasing his bar mitzvah suit at the original Barneys New York with his mother, the site to where the Chelsea flagship store now stands. As a veteran in the industry, Strausman obviously knows what it takes to run a successful restaurant and will be sharing his in-depth knowledge with every location he launches.
Since he can’t obviously be on the line at each of the restaurants at once, he still tries to have his signature touch on each guest experience through the culinary team that he is building.
Strausman’s priority is to look for individuals who he can trust with recipes, but will still bring their own uniqueness to the table. “We hire chefs like the one we have at our Downtown location. Jennifer Wasnesky does her own specials,” he describes.
“Jennifer brings a lot of good ideas and that’s what you need to have. She feels ownership and that’s the most important thing.” Not one to micromanage, Strausman’s involvement in the other locations will still have the same touches as his New York locations, but have its own distinct flavors thanks to his handpicked chefs.
The same holds true for Strausman’s opinions when it comes to the details that often make the difference in success with something as simple as a decision about linen on tables. Although he’s from a crop of old school chefs, who grew up with it, he does believe that customers aren’t expecting that from top-tier establishments anymore. “I think it’s okay that nobody gets dressed up to go to the theaters these days,” he admits. “But there are some restaurants that you hope never lose that tablecloth to show your kids the way people used to dine like our restaurant uptown.”
But it’s his knowledge of what customers want that has made each of the Freds at Barneys restaurants a success. “I quote an old customer of mine, Mr. John Gutfreund [famous Wall Street bond trader]… ‘Let trend be your friend,’” he explains. “I’ve always used that. He was obviously talking about stocks, but it’s still true in life. Chicken soup is as popular today as it was 20 years ago!”
To learn more about Freds at Barneys, please visit their website.