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! 

May 16, 2017

Flatiron Faces: Steven Mangleshot, Executive Chef, wagamama

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Steven Mangleshot, Executive Chef of wagamama. Located at 210 Fifth Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets, the Japanese-inspired restaurant made its New York City debut in the Flatiron District last November. "There's truly something for everyone,” notes Mangleshot.

1. Briefly describe your role as Executive Chef at wagamama, which made its New York City debut in the Flatiron District last November.

As Executive Chef, I oversee menus for wagamama restaurants all around the world, including our newest location in NYC. It's an amazing job, which allows me to create some fantastic food.

2. wagamama was established in the United Kingdom 25 years ago and has been a leading British brand. What makes your style of Japanese-inspired cuisine such a hit among foodies?

Our menu is inspired by the flavors of Japan, and it's intended to soothe, nourish, sustain, and inspire. We offer curry, donburi, teppanyaki, and ramen along with salads, sides, and fresh pressed juices. There's truly something for everyone. Being able to use so many great ingredients and flavors from Asia makes it a joy to create such satisfying food.

3. How have Flatiron District diners embraced wagamama?

We talk to as many guests as we can to explain what we are doing and hopefully convey how passionate we are about our food and the stunning restaurant we serve it in, and that will never stop! And I believe that New York has taken to us and they appreciate what we are doing.

4. Which wagamama dishes do you highly recommend?

Wow, that’s a tough one! That is like trying to pick a favorite child...impossible. I love the new dishes we've dreamed up like the duck donburi or steak bulgogi, but I never can resist a classic like our yaki soba, which is still hitting the mark 25 years later.

5. You’ve been in the culinary arts business for a long time. What do you consider the most important skill set that has contributed to your success?

Well, I have actually been cooking for three decades! I know what you’re thinking, how can that be as you look so young? All jokes aside, what has really carried me through such a fantastic journey of cooking is the fact that I'm always learning. Even now I have some of my young new chefs giving me ideas, which is great. And above all, it's about being humble with all the people you meet.

6. What led you to pursue this profession? How does it remain appealing to you?

I've always loved to cook at home with my grandparents and parents, and watching them create food from nothing. Feeding someone is one of the greatest gifts of all. With wagamama, it’s been a journey of discovery, which is always changing in the way of kaizen (the Japanese belief in continuous improvement). It always keeps me engaged and having fun, which is one of the most important things.

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

I love being right between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. It's like being on a film set! Plus, the people here are similar to Londoners, so I really feel at home.

8. Other than a visit to wagamama, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" in the neighborhood?

On recent visit to New York, I went to a couple of real standout places. The first was Boqueria – perfect for tapas, plus a great wine list and amazing service. The cojonudo – fried quail eggs and chorizo on toast – is a must-try.

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

Apart from our wonderful restaurant, I have got to say that being able to look at the Flatiron Building on a regular basis never gets boring! Truly stunning and so much history. And I always love to look out for the Chrysler Building on my way into Manhattan from the airport. Just beautiful.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Unique. Surprising. Welcoming.

Apr 5, 2017

Lisa Mansour, N.Y. Cake

Flatiron Faces: Lisa Mansour, CEO of NY Cake & Baking Supply and Founder of NY Cake Academy

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Lisa Mansour, CEO of NY Cake & Baking Supplies and Founder of NY Cake Academy. Located at 56 West 22nd Street, the retail store is the go-to site for a variety of baking accessories and instructional classes, and is great for the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays. "Cake is fun," says the Brooklyn-born Mansour. "Cake makes people happy."

1. Briefly describe your dual role as CEO of NY Cake & Baking Supplies and founder of the NY Cake Academy.

I run the store day-to-day, look for new products, and help customers. I grew up watching my mom teach and I knew it's what I wanted to do, so NY Cake Academy was created. I am the main instructor, I create the classes, and bring in guest teachers at least once a month because there’s always new techniques to learn. We do private events, parties, corporate events, and our classes range from beginner to expert decorators. I love teaching and having that one-on-one with my customers. It’s the best way to do business.

2. You opened your retail store in 1989. Can you recall the early days in the community?

The District was completely different back then, very quiet, not much foot traffic for businesses. It was a little scary to open a retail store in the area but it was the most affordable rent in Manhattan so we took the chance. The community blossomed into this hot spot with shops and restaurants everywhere. It’s wonderful now.

3. Which baking supplies do you highly recommend to consumers?

I always recommend anodized cake pans to my customers over nonstick. They give you a lighter crumb finish and a more even bake.

4. You launched the NY Cake Show in 2012. Briefly tell us about the idea behind the event, and what can we expect this year.

This is an event devoted to cake lovers, and the artistry behind cakes. The NY Cake Show is an activity for the whole family, there is something for everyone. This year the theme is Broadway, and we have a cake decorating competition, classes and demos for the novice and expert baker, kids classes, a free cupcake bar for kids, shops, and the most beautiful cakes you’ve ever seen. Forget what you’ve seen on TV, the things people create for this show will blow you away. The show has grown to a two-day event now, and takes place June 10th and 11th!

5. The culinary arts is a major part of your life. What do you consider the most important skills for those interested in this career path?

Keep an open mind, there’s always new techniques and trends to explore. Even when you think you’ve learned everything, don’t stop. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you’ll discover talents and hobbies you didn’t even know you had.

6. What led you to pursue baking and retail as your career?

I grew up in it, I was always going to do this. My mother was a cake decorating instructor. I didn’t have playdates when I was a kid. I went with my mother to her classes and sat with her students. Her students wanted to buy products and there was no internet or Amazon like there is now, so we decided to open up a store on 22nd Street with my Mom teaching and I ran the store.

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

It’s so lively and unique. There’s history everywhere you look, the stone work and architecture often inspires me for cakes. It’s a wonderful environment to come to everyday.

8. Other than a visit to your business, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" destination in the neighborhood?

Eataly is one of my favorite shops in the city. They have everything and it's all fresh. It's not exactly a secret, though, it's always packed!

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

The Flatiron Building. The shape and detailing is unique; buildings just aren’t made like that anymore. I would love to do a cake like it one day!

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Stylish. Active. Fun.

Image via Anthony Prou.

Mar 7, 2017

Dr. Julie Kuriakose, Allergist

Flatiron Faces: Dr. Julie Kuriakose, Co-Founder of Hudson Allergy

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce Dr. Julie Kuriakose, co-founder of Hudson Allergy. Hudson Allery provides allergy care at 208 Fifth Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets. Dr. Kuriakose is a native of Belle Mead, NJ and holds a B.S. in Public Health from Rutgers University as well as an M.D. from the New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine & Dentistry.

1. Briefly describe your roles as co-founder of Hudson Allergy, faculty member at New York Presbyterian/Cornell Weill, and a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons/New York Presbyterian.

As co-founder of Hudson Allergy, my mission is to provide expert medical care to my patients and to set the standard for a modern private medical practice. First and foremost, patient care and education are my priorities. I also focus my efforts on improving the customer experience. At Hudson Allergy, we offer the highest level of care with same day appointments, comprehensive services, applied digital tools, and electronic medical records. The goal is for our doctors to spend more time with our patients, who ultimately spend less time waiting.

At Columbia, I spend my time lecturing fellows, residents, and medical students and providing hands-on teaching in the allergy clinic. It's a wonderful and rewarding experience to be able to teach at the institution that trained me.

2. Spring is almost here and with that, seasonal allergies. What's some of the best advice you offer to your patients?

First, see an allergist and identify what you're specifically allergic to. So many patients know they have allergies but have no idea what allergens are causing the reaction.

Once you know what you're allergic to, take steps to prevent exposure. For example: keep windows closed to avoid letting airborne pollen and mold into your home; take your shoes off at the door, change your clothes, and wash your hands and face after spending time outdoors; shower before you go to sleep. Pollen is very sticky and can stick to your hair and body. Also, consider investing in a HEPA air purifier for your bedroom, clean/change your air conditioning filters, track pollen/mold counts, and start your medications before the season starts, don’t wait until your symptoms are severe. Prevention is key to winning against allergies.

3. You're also a Huffington Post blogger who has written about food allergies. What are your key recommendations to diners eating out?

*Understand your food allergy–get tested and confirm your diagnosis. Your allergist should clearly explain your allergy and help you put an allergy action plan in place. This may include carrying emergency medication.

*If possible, check out the menu in advance and recognize if there are any red flag dishes you need to avoid. Call ahead and let management know a member of your party has food allergies; this is New York, and most restaurants are happy to accommodate.

*Don't be afraid to repeat yourself when it comes to your food allergies.  Discuss your allergy with your waiter and, if possible, speak with the chef.

*When your meal is placed in front of you, confirm this is your dish and that it was prepared to your specifications. If there is any doubt, speak to the management about having it remade.

4. Why did you pursue the specialties of allergy, immunology, and internal medicine as a profession?

Early in my career, I did research in asthma and epigenetic regulation. I'm fascinated with how environmental exposures can trigger disease, not just asthma and seasonal allergies/hay fever, but also allergic skin conditions and food allergies, especially as the number of people with allergies grows.

5. As a Flatiron District business owner, what do you love most about working in the area, and what leisure activities do you like to do here?

I love that there are so many fitness studios and gyms in the area. It's so easy to attend a class after work.

6.  Your practice receives positive patient reviews. What distinguishes your office from others, and what are the reasons behind your business success?

We're focused on the customer experience. Our office is modern and inviting. We offer same day appointments without a long wait. Patients can book their appointment online, and they can communicate with their doctor directly through our patient portal without having to pick up the phone. Most importantly, our doctors are accessible and take the time to develop a relationship with each individual patient.

7. When you grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood, where do you like to go? What's your favorite dish?

I can't choose! Bo's Kitchen & Bar Room for the watermelon cocktails, and Tappo for the thin crust pizza.

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

Madison Square Park has some of the best views of the most charming buildings in the city.

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

The Flatiron Building and Clock Tower. They're simply iconic.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Vibrant. Dynamic. Historic.