Nov 13, 2017

Flatiron Faces: Deirdre & Nicholas McDermott, Future Expansion

Flatiron Faces: Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, Architects and Partners at Future Expansion

Meet Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, winners of this year’s Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. The pair's shimmering structure, Flatiron Reflection, will open to the public on November 20th and will be on display on the Flatiron North Public Plaza through January 1st. Flatiron Reflection serves as the centerpiece for the sixth annual "23 Days of Flatiron Cheer" programming.

1.) Briefly tell us about your firm, Future Expansion.

Nicholas: Future Expansion is about five years old at this point and coincidentally its origins are somewhat tied to another public art installation. We won a commission from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to build a temporary urban-scale sculpture for a vacant lot next to the BAM Harvey Theater. It was our first real job as an office, and an incredible experience for all of the collaboration, research, and coordination, which allowed us to get our hands dirty on a project we were very intellectually invested in. Since that project, we’ve mostly worked on more traditional architecture assignments for commercial, institutional, and residential clients. In general, we think architecture offers a compelling opportunity to engage in the creation of the city that does not yet exist, the city of the future, in the sense that the city is always reinventing itself, always changing. It’s also important to note that though small, the office is more than the sum of the two partners; Vincent Mai and Michael Filomeno from our office worked on this project and were instrumental in its realization.

2.) What led each of you to practice architecture?

Nicholas: I was a philosophy major in college but got turned onto architecture while living in London during a year abroad studying philosophy of science at the London School of Economics and traveling around Europe. Although what I studied in philosophy of science seems more relevant now than I ever imagined it would be, that was it, there was no hesitation after London.

Deirdre: I told my parents at a very young age that I wanted to be an architect.

3.) Can you share some of the ways you keep your design practice partnership fresh and creative?

Deirdre: We are constantly looking outside ourselves for inspiration. The city, in a big way, keeps the practice fresh. You can always experience something new even on the same block you walk down everyday; it's a consistent influence and reminds us that you can approach each design project from a different angle.

4.) What are your thoughts about your proposal being selected as the centerpiece for the Partnership's annual "23 Days of Flatiron Cheer" holiday programming?

Nicholas: Thrilled!

5.) What was your inspiration for Flatiron Reflection? What do you hope will be the public's takeway when experiencing it?

Nicholas: We were inspired by, among other things, the great Edward Steichen photograph of the Flatiron Building. The way that the building appears through the fog, the clarity of the form amidst the ambiguity and murkiness of the image was the inspiration for the blurrily reflective surface treatment we proposed in our design. But, right from the beginning, we also talked about wanting to create a project that could create some amount of separation between the viewer and the noise of the street. Having said that, it was also critical that the project reinforce the public nature of the plaza. More than anything, this is a public space project. New Yorkers need to value and demand more from the custodians of the public realm. These are vital infrastructures without which the city would not exist in a recognized form. The installation should make the plaza feel more public, more open, more exceptional.

Deirdre: I hope that Flatiron Reflection will not only be experienced from the outside but also from within. I think that there is a powerful moment that is inherent in the plaza of taking in the city at a grander scale, of opening up and redirecting the experience.

6.) What is your favorite building or achitectural element in the Flatiron District?

Nicholas: The Flatiron Building, of course. It’s hard to compete. Although, from Madison Square Park, the scale of the big arched entrance on the corner of the 11 Madison building is wonderful. It feels like it addresses the city, and it’s so present as a form but as you approach it, you experience it as space.

Deirdre: To me, it’s standing in the middle of the open plaza and looking up. The buildings that surround the park and plaza - Flatiron included - all have a relative character that runs between them. There are very few places where you get to step back and take in so much beautiful architecture all at once and from that vantage point.

7.) What's your favorite destination or 'must see' in the neighborhood?

Nicholas: Madison Square Park is a wonderful urban oasis, and you’ve got to love MoMATH.

8.) What's your favorite place to eat in Flatiron?

Deirdre: A Voce, though we are delinquent in our patronage to the big names on the block.

Nicholas: We don’t get out of Brooklyn much.

9.) Finally, describe the Flatiron District in three words.

Ready for Reflection.

Oct 10, 2017

Flatiron Faces: Keiko Ono Aoki, Concept Creator, Director & President, ROKI

Keiko Ono Aoki has followed in the footsteps of her late husband, renowned Benihana restaurateur Rocky Aoki. As the Concept Creator, Director, and President of ROKI, located at 12 West 21st Street, ramen is the specialty dish. “Rocky told me almost 14 years ago,” recalls the Tokyo native, “sushi is going to be ramen!”

1. Briefly describe ROKI as well as your role with the restaurant.

ROKI is a Japanese Izakaya. Izakaya means that we serve a lot of Japanese tapas. The specialty at our restaurant is ramen. I am the concept creator and the Director/President of ROKI.

2. Please tell us about your connection to the famous Benihana chain. Is there a Benihana influence on the operations at ROKI?

My late husband, Rocky Aoki, started the restaurant chain “Benihana” in 1964 on 56th Street in Manhattan. I am now the CEO of Benihana of Tokyo. Rocky told me almost 14 years ago that the next sushi was going to be ramen. I remembered what he said and decided to open ROKI, and our main feature would be ramen. The “entertainment” portion at my restaurant was influenced by Benihana as well. 

3. What are some of your highly recommended dishes at the brasserie?

Ramen is very popular right now around the world and there are many ramen restaurants here in New York. However, what makes us different is our original and unique Ramen Nabe (hot pot). That is our specialty! I also highly recommend the Kanpachi Carpaccio, Japanese Canape, and the Pork Belly Bun.

4. With the upcoming season for holiday parties, what is ROKI offering?

We have a beautiful private room in the back and we are able to create a unique ROKI menu starting at $48. We are also able to offer buffet-style as well.

5. What would you tell people considering a career in the culinary arts? What are the most important skills for this line of work?

This does not pertain to just the culinary arts industry, but I believe that you should look for a career that you enjoy and love to do! In the culinary arts industry, creativity is important. Always challenge yourself to try something new. In recent years, the term “fusion” has been quite popular and many restaurants are creating fusion foods. Fusion is great, but it is also important to stay with the core. Lastly, these days people are very health conscious, especially in this area. Being healthy is the new trend so you want to keep that in mind when creating new food items. 

6. When you moved to the Flatiron District in March, you told the BID that the area is “the center of Manhattan.” What do you like most about the Flatiron District?

The location is perfect because it is right in between Midtown and Downtown. Although we are not Downtown, I can still feel the downtown atmosphere. But we can also feel the business type of atmosphere from Midtown; so it’s a nice combination. Flatiron is casual but a little more on the sophisticated side and you can enjoy any type of fashion.

7. Other than ROKI, where do you like to grab a bite in the area?

Ilili is my favorite place and I go there quite often. My favorite dish is their Tabbouleh, Boneless Ribeye, and can’t forget about their hummus. I love the atmosphere here and their food is delicious. Bouley’s new restaurant has not opened yet but I am interested in going there once it opens.

8. What do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood?

Eataly is one of the hottest spots in the Flatiron. They have anything and everything that relates to Italy from A to Z. I think the concept is very interesting; it reminds me of the Japanese Depachika (food court). They sell souvenirs, grocery items, and ready-to-eat food; they have everything! It’s a convenient and fun place to see. The difference between the Japanese Depachika and Eataly is that they give away samples. Many people go to the Depachika just to eat the samples. It would be great if we can get samples there, too!

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in Flatiron?

I must say my building because my restaurant is located there! 

10. Choose a few words to describe the Flatiron District.

Innovative. Comfortable living. Dog friendly.


Sep 12, 2017

Flatiron Faces: Joy Robins, SVP, Global Revenue & Strategy, Quartz

Joy Robins is committed to delivering great ad experiences to business professionals at Quartz, a digitally native news outlet headquartered in the Flatiron District. Robins was recently named to Ad Age’s “40 Under 40” list which includes an eclectic group of movers in the worlds of media, marketing, tech and advertising. “I love that on any night I can walk down a street [in the Flatiron District] and happen upon a retailer or service that I had never noticed before.”

1.  What is Quartz? And, what is your role as Senior Vice President of Global Revenue & Strategy?

Quartz is a guide to the new global economy for business leaders who are excited by change. I am responsible for leading the sales, ad operations, and marketing teams that serve marketers, brands, and agencies that advertise with Quartz. The majority of our work is the native advertising space through non-standard display formats and content creation.

2.  You were recently named to the “40 Under 40” list by Ad Age. What was your initial reaction?

I was honored and very surprised. It was a great feeling to make my mother proud!

3.  Ad Age noted that you tripled Quartz’s advertiser base and boosted revenue eight-fold since arriving in 2013. How have you accomplished this?

This was accomplished by building a great team that is committed to building meaningful partnerships and delivering great ad experiences that are valuable to both the Quartz user and the brands we work with.

4.  What is your short-term (this year) goal for Quartz? And, longer term?

Quartz is almost five years old. We are widely recognized for being a successful media insurgent. Now, we are working to ensure that Quartz can stand with strength as a major global media brand. This means having relationships with brands, advertisers, and marketers who are ambitious and are looking to engage with curious audiences across the world.

5.  What led you to Quartz? What do you think is most important for those interested in pursuing a similar career?

I was intrigued by Quartz’s value proposition to both users and advertisers globally and their ability to both reimagine and then deliver on a completely new approach to sophisticated content and quality advertising. Prior to Quartz, my career included a variety of roles. One recent stage in my career was at the BBC, where I worked to launch advertising on and introduced the BBC brand to the U.S. market. My team knows that I bring passion, enthusiasm, and a drive to achieve results through hard work, and that I value these skills in rising stars as well.

6.  Quartz is part of a growing number of digital media outlets choosing to locate in Flatiron. What do you like most about the neighborhood?

I love that on any night I can walk down a street and happen upon a retailer or service that I had never noticed before. It feels like the neighborhood is constantly evolving via pop-up shops and new openings that add to the dynamism that has really emerged.

7.  When you dip out of the office, where do you like to grab a bite in the area? What is your favorite dish?

My favorite restaurant in the area is Momoya. I wouldn’t be able to pick just one thing. The fish is fresh and delicious and I go for the sashimi every time.

8.  What do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood?

If you are a tourist in the area you must see and eat at Eataly. The food is delicious.

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

I love the Flatiron Building. I began my career at OMD when they were in 11 Madison, so the Flatiron Building was a landmark that always stuck with me. Now that Quartz has moved just around the corner, it has become a point of reference for me that always reminds me of where I started.

10. Choose three words (okay, four) to describe the Flatiron District.

Dynamic. Comprehensive. Fitness mecca.

Aug 22, 2017

Jonathan Cetnarski, CEO & President, Natural Gourmet Institute

Jonathan Cetnarski is on a mouthwatering mission! As CEO & President of the Natural Gourmet Institute, Cetnarski wants to turn the 40-year-old culinary school into a household name and not just a “best kept secret”. NGI holds the distinction as America’s first nationally accredited facility featuring a health-supportive, plant-based curriculum, and has graduated more than 2,700 professional chefs, representing 45 countries, into the culinary arts. Bon appétit!

1. Briefly tells us about your role as CEO & President at the Natural Gourmet Institute. 

As CEO of a boutique, natural foods culinary school, my role is varied depending on the day. Usually I am focused on advocating the importance of healthful eating and introducing communities and individuals to our unique culinary education. I also have the privilege of leading a team of the most talented chef instructors and professional staff in the business. Other times you may find me shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket for fresh produce to use in classes or attempting to paint a wall!

2. Please tell us more about NGI and its 40-year history.

Natural Gourmet Institute, better known as NGI, is a progressive, inspiring, and unique culinary school that has been focused on health-supportive, natural foods cooking since 1977. The school was founded by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., who was passionate about helping individuals understand the connection between food and health. She coined the term “health-supportive cooking” and created the Seven Principles of Food Selection, which state that food should be whole, seasonal, local, traditional, balanced, fresh, and of course, delicious. These principles serve as the basis of our culinary education programs for professional chefs, home cooks, and wellness enthusiasts. Our professional training program boasts the country’s first nationally accredited health-supportive, plant-based curriculum and has graduated over 2,700 professional chefs from 45 countries around the world. The school has been one of the Flatiron District’s best kept secrets since we moved here in the early 1980s and has always attracted people who want to transcend food fads and learn to prepare healthful, natural foods that taste delicious. On Fridays, we become a cool destination for people who want to have a gourmet three-course vegetarian meal prepared by chef students and served in a training kitchen-turned-restaurant.

3. You joined NGI in 2015 after a career as a corporate executive. What led to your career change?

I had been on my own personal journey to better understand my relationship with food and its impact on my health while also assessing what I wanted to do with my professional life. I had grown weary of the corporate race and wanted to do something that felt more purposeful to me–which was to find a way to help people live better lives. While volunteering at a teaching farm in Brooklyn, I met an alum of the school who told me that NGI was looking for a new CEO. I quickly read up on the school, Annemarie, and its alumni community and I fell in love. NGI was just what I was looking for: a place that has transformational impact on people and our planet, as well as amazing, healthy food! Luckily, the school liked me as well and I have not looked back since.

4. What are your goals at NGI?

An aspirational goal is to help millions of people lead more healthful lives by providing a culinary education that informs about the benefits of cooking with natural foods, limiting refined or processed ingredients, and keeping a plate balanced with lots of healthy plants! Daily, one of my goals is to make NGI a household name and not be a “best kept secret “ anymore. The school has taught food practices that are now very relevant today. The more that people know about us, the more we can help them cut through the confusion about food while providing aspiring chefs a competitive edge in today’s more health-focused kitchens.

5. What do you consider the most important skills for those interested in the culinary profession? 

Knife skills! Actually, it is true about knife skills but more importantly, today’s chefs need to know how to source quality ingredients along with knowing how to prepare delicious, well-plated meals, which include lots of plant-based ingredients. NYC and the world are starting to realize that we have not been eating healthfully, and as more people demand healthy food, chefs will need to have the skills and education to respond.

6. You once said “I learned that what I eat, where it comes from, and how it’s prepared matters.” Where do you like to grab a bite in the area? Favorite dish? 

When I am not eating food from our training kitchens at NGI, I run to Dig Inn or Sweetgreen for a quick but well-sourced and prepared meal. If I have more time, I enjoy eating at ABC Kitchen. The space and service is outstanding and the food is fantastic. Get the carrot and avocado salad!

7. What do you like most about the Flatiron District? 

I love the Flatiron District, I always have. It is an iconic neighborhood with incredibly preserved architecture and is full of diversity from its people, the area restaurants, and things to do. It really represents NYC. I also love the fact the torch belonging to the Statue of Liberty used to reside in Madison Square Park while she was being constructed.

8. In addition to NGI, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood? 

I think the entire neighborhood should be explored as it is full of a rich history that is enjoyable to learn about and the architecture is stunning. Window shopping in ABC Home is also a lot of fun.

9. What's your favorite building in the area? 

I clearly love architecture, so this is a tough one to answer. If I were forced to pick, it would be the Flatiron Building because for me it has always been a symbol of NYC, and I still get excited to see it.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District. 

Diverse. Iconic. Delicious.

Photo credit: Alexandra Shytsman, NGI

Jun 29, 2017

Field Failing: Founder & Managing Partner, Fields Good Chicken

Field Failing is the Founder and Managing Partner of Fields Good Chicken and has a passion for healthy food. He describes his business as “providing simple, no-BS food to people who care about what they eat.” His other passion is road cycling and he recently combined his interests with a three-day charity ride in Northern California with the nonprofit Chefs Cycle which raises funds for No Kid Hungry.

1. Please describe your role as Founder & Managing Partner at Fields Good Chicken.

My role at Fields Good Chicken (FGC) involves running all aspects of the business from overseeing menu development to brand-building initiatives to developing our company culture. I wear a lot of hats and no two days are the same, which keeps things challenging and exciting. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 2. You’ve described your business as “providing simple, no-BS food to people who care about what they eat.” Where does your food philosophy originate?

I quit my first job in corporate finance to pursue professional cycling. Like any other sport, a healthy diet is essential to success in cycling, but it was difficult to find healthy, fresh food on the go. I wanted to make better food available to the masses and that's how the idea for FGC was born. I very much live this philosophy in how I eat personally. Although the food system is improving, collectively we still have a long way to go before it will be truly easy to eat this way.

3. Your business is based on chicken. Where do you source your ingredients?

Our chicken is antibiotic free, humanely raised, and sourced from FreeBird. The rest of our ingredients are hand-picked for quality and uniqueness. For example, instead of using generic cheddar cheese, we use Grafton 1-Year Aged Cheddar that is handmade in Vermont. Our produce is delivered daily to each location to ensure freshness. Our goal is to always serve up top-notch food and an excellent guest experience.

4. What led you to pursue a career in food, and what do you consider most important for those interested in considering it as a profession?

I learned quickly that cycling wasn't going to pay the bills, so I took a job making salads at a local restaurant and fell in love with the restaurant business. Pursuing a career in food was actually about pursuing a passion. For those considering it as a profession, I would say make sure you absolutely love it, be a sponge and learn everything you can from anyone willing to teach you—and don't give up when things get tough (because they will, often).

5. Outside of the restaurant, you’re an accomplished road cyclist. What’s been your most memorable ride and why?

I recently completed a three-day ride in Northern California with the non-profit Chefs Cycle. We biked more than 300 miles in an effort to raise money for No Kid Hungry. It was a great way to combine two of my interests and do something for the greater good. It's crazy how many issues we have with the food system in America, including childhood hunger. Every child should be able to know where their next meal is coming from, and No Kid Hungry is an outstanding organization that focuses on fixing this very real problem.

6. Fields Good Chicken recently opened in Flatiron and it’s your fourth New York City location. Why did you choose this neighborhood?

My wife and I lived a few blocks away from our new 23rd Street location for years and always felt there was a need for better fast casual food options in the neighborhood. The Flatiron District has a unique mix of locals, business professionals, and tourists from all over the world. It really is an awesome neighborhood and we’re excited to be here.

7. Aside from eating at Fields Good Chicken, where else do you like to eat in the Flatiron District?

For healthy dinners in a cool atmosphere, you can't beat The Little Beet Table. I'm still a pretty serious cyclist and I try to eat healthy as often as possible. This is definitely a go-to spot for me.

8. What do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood? 

Have a beer and play ping-pong at SPiN. Or, simply take a leisurely walk through Madison Square Park.

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

I've walked past the Flatiron Building on my way to the office every day for the last three years, and it's always just as inspiring as the first time I saw it. It's so iconic. It would be hard to choose any other building in this neighborhood.

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Quintessential New York.

Jun 6, 2017

Flatiron Faces: Kate Ward, Editor-in-Chief,

Kate Ward is a self-proclaimed American Idol Ph.D., Shake Shack 'Shroomburger aficionado, and Editor-in-Chief of Bustle, a division of BDG Media. As Bustle makes the move to Park Avenue South this June, the site comfortably remains the “premier digital destination for millennial women” with 50 million monthly unique readers. “Bustle aims to provide women with a platform to write about the issues they care about most," says Ward, who earned a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a Minnetonka, Minn. native. “My family has lived in Chelsea for the last 10 years, so it’s hard to consider myself anything but a New Yorker!”

1. Briefly describe your role as Editor-in-Chief at Bustle.

At Bustle Digital Group, I directly oversee Bustle, Romper, and Elite Daily's editorial and video teams. On a macro level, I'm in charge of the content strategy behind each site, and responsible for growing audience across all properties. On a micro level, I'm brainstorming ideas for new features on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, developing ways to improve operations on a daily basis, and sitting in lots and lots and lots of meetings. 

2. You are one of the site's founding editors. How would you best describe Bustle?

Bustle is a site that aims to provide women with a platform to write about the issues they care about most, whether that's what's going on in the White House, Harry Styles' new album, or the role feminism has played in their life. That's been our mission since 2013, and we're proud to have never deviated from it.  

3. What led you to pursue journalism as your career, and what do you consider most important for those interested in pursuing this career path?

As soon as I wrote my first news article ever — for my junior high newspaper — I knew I wanted to be a journalist. At first, it was by default — the only thing I loved more than writing was cats, and being a purveyor of a kitten farm wasn't a realistic career goal. But, as the years progressed and I learned more about the media industry, I came to love it even more. There are few careers that allow you to learn about something new every day. It's difficult to get bored when the news cycle is always churning, and there are always more questions that need to be asked. 

Of course, the industry has changed quite a bit since I decided to be a journalist in 1997. I made it through the bounty of layoffs that affected media in 2008, but they taught me a truly important lesson as someone hoping to thrive as a journalist: to be nimble is to survive in media. The industry is moving just as fast as the news cycle these days, and complacency (or a refusal to be open to change) will not only prove to be a disservice to your career path, but to readers as well. 

4.  In 2015, you were named to Forbes "30 Under 30" list. What do you consider your crowning achievement at Bustle?

Quite simply, hiring a hundred co-workers who inspire me every day. Bustle's success hardly has to do directly with my work, but the work put in by the dozens of men and women who regularly help each other become better. I have not only made friends at Bustle, but confidants and mentors as well — there is so much creativity between our walls, teaching me never to settle on the most obvious angle or idea. 

All that work has allowed Bustle to become one of the fastest-growing media companies, rising from zero to 50 million monthly unique readers in a matter of three years. And I'm pretty proud of all 200 of us for that! 

5.  Your Twitter says that you're a Rock of Love historian. Why are you huge a fan of MTV's Bret Michaels reality show?

Oh my gosh, could it be any clearer that I signed up for Twitter in 2008? That said, I am the ultimate high-brow-low-brow television consumer — I can quote both Breaking Bad and Bachelorette with the same amount of fervor. And, back in the late 2000s, Rock of Love was some much-needed ridiculous brain candy after a meaty day covering fast-paced news. I would say, though, that I'm less of a historian now than a nostalgic fan — but I do hold a Ph.D. in American Idol if you ever want to discuss why David Cook was the best winner. 

6.  Bustle is one of the newest neighbors in the Flatiron District, joining a large number of tech industries in the neighborhood. What do you like most about Flatiron?

It's undeniable that, in recent years, there has been a surge of energy in Flatiron, thanks to the company we're about to keep! But I have to say, does it get better than Shake Shack in Madison Square Park on a beautiful day? 

7. During a break in the action, where do you like to grab a bite to eat in the area and what's your favorite dish there?

Unfortunately, I typically don't have enough time during the day to go beyond our office kitchen when I need a snack. But I have enjoyed excellent meals at ABC Kitchen, and fun group events at Flatiron Hall, Maysville, Harding's, Hog Pit, and, of course, Eataly. I'm also a sucker for by CHLOE., and one day, will treat myself at Eleven Madison Park. One day. 

8. What do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood?

Again, does it get better than Shake Shack in Madison Square Park on a beautiful day? Beyond inhaling a 'ShroomBurger and cheese fries, walking down Broadway and enjoying the Empire State Building view is pretty hard to beat. Oh, and pet all the dogs in Madison Square Park!  

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

The Flatiron Building is the undeniable architectural gem of the neighborhood, of course, but the Serbian Orthodox Church, which sadly succumbed to a fire last year, is impossible to ignore. 

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Ambitious. Green. Bustling!