Mar 6, 2020

Flatiron Faces: Allison Nye, VP of Operations at Birchbox

Meet Allison Nye, VP of Operations at Birchbox, an online retailer that offers a box of curated beauty samples on a monthly basis to more than 1 million subscribers. The e-commerce business is headquartered in the Flatiron District at 16 Madison Square West on Broadway between 24th and 25th Streets.

1. Birchbox’s motto states, “We are more than beauty & grooming.” Tell us more about your mission, and what sets you apart from other e-commerce businesses in wellness and beauty. 

Birchbox is 100% tailored for the casual beauty consumer, someone who is not obsessed with beauty or grooming, but who values the utility and enjoys the discovery. When a customer becomes a subscriber, they immediately fill out a beauty or grooming profile in order to receive personalized samples to try. Once they find a product they love, subscribers can purchase full-size versions on our website and feel great about the transaction instead of worrying that their investment will end up unused in their product graveyard.

2. Briefly describe your role as VP, Operations. What aspect of your job most excites you?

As VP of Operations, I oversee Operations, Customer Operations, Retail, and People & Culture. I collaborate with the leadership team to create company goals, set strategy and innovation for the future, and foster an environment where our people enjoy spending their time.

I definitely get excited by problem-solving and building efficiencies, but my ultimate passion lands with the people. I am impressed and motivated by our team’s level of creativity, their candidness, and their ability to execute or pivot based on business needs. As a leader of People & Culture, I support and maintain our open-door culture where all questions and ideas are welcome, and all expectations are clear so we can continue to foster our unique environment of exceptional employees.

3. Birchbox was co-founded by two women, Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, and you are a member of a mostly female leadership team. How has this shaped the culture at Birchbox?

I believe that a strong culture is shaped by a leadership team who isn’t afraid to ask questions, be candid, and be challenged. I found these qualities in Birchbox when I first joined the team in 2014. Our female leaders instilled an artful balance of confidence and transparency that allowed me to feel safe to ask questions, advocate for change, and approach all levels of leadership for guidance throughout my career.

What I appreciate most about the culture at Birchbox is that this is just our norm. The culture originated by our co-founders has lived on through the years of Birchbox, which keeps me inspired to this day.

4. March marks Women’s History Month, and Birchbox is actively involved in the gender equality movement. For example, Birchbox’s Female Founder Collective and Women Take Tech initiative in partnership with the Flatiron School. Tell us more about these projects and how they came to be.

As a women-founded business, we’ve always felt it was really important to support our community beyond the box. Since the beginning, we’ve intentionally focused on featuring women-founded beauty brands and highlighting women in our community of customers across our website, email, social channels. A few years ago, we started feeling like it wasn’t enough to just talk about the amazing women who are part of the beauty community. We wanted to take it a step further, so we created a program called the Future Starts Now Fund to empower our customers. A handful of times each year, we pick one winner and give them $5,000 to put toward a dream of theirs. Nine winners later, we are in our third year of running the Fund and applications are live now for March’s Women’s History Month-themed award!

In addition to the Fund, we also make it a point to partner with women-founded businesses as frequently as possible. Katia Beauchamp, our co-founder and CEO, and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff became friends while being judges on a TV show a few years ago. When Rebecca came to us with the idea to partner with her network, the Female Founder Collective, to bring attention to some of the women-run businesses that are members of the FFC, it was a no- brainer. A lot of the women-run companies we partner with are recommended to us through the network, but we also reach out to companies we come across and get a lot of cold emails too. It’s really important to us to give women access to our platform and community– we have to support each other and lift each other up, regardless of whether it’s going to drive sales for us or not.

5. Getting back to beauty, what are some of the most requested Birchbox products among customers, and what items do you personally consider to be must-haves?

This is my favorite part to talk about. In addition to our subscription service, we get great reviews on our Birchbox Discovery kits. These kits are curated by our merchandising team and are an affordable way to try out new products. These kits are some of my favorite things to purchase from Birchbox because I definitely self-identify as a casual beauty customer. I am busy and do not have time to find what products work the best for me, so I spent the majority of my life with the same, limited, beauty routine.

My all-time favorite, cannot live without product is Arrow Boost Color Enhancing Lip Balm. If you haven’t tried it, the time is now! It is the perfect blend of a hydrating lip balm while adding just a hint of color that I feel comfortable wearing all day long. Prior to my subscription, I never knew I needed this product and now I have one in my purse, my desk drawer, and in my makeup bag.

My go-to hair product is Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle. As a curly girl who likes to style and put heat on my hair, I am constantly looking for products to hydrate and protect. This product smells delicious and it has so many benefits in one bottle. It hydrates, works as a heat protector and adult detangler to protect my curls from breakage and damage between haircuts.

6. In 2018, Birchbox unveiled a partnership with Walgreens, which rolled out dedicated Birchbox spaces in select locations. What were the reasons behind launching an in-store shopping experience, and how have customers responded?

We decided to partner with Walgreens because it was an incredible opportunity to learn from a very established retailer. Walgreens brings so much retail expertise and we are excited for the opportunity to innovate, test, and learn about what customers want when shopping for beauty/grooming in an offline environment.

I believe there is something special about experiencing a digital brand in a physical way, but one thing we were mindful of was creating stores that were equally useful as they were enjoyable. We are still in pilot mode, but we are excited that the customer response has been overwhelmingly positive both in utility and experiential qualities of our brand.

7. What’s the best advice that you can offer to those who are interested in pursuing a career in retail and customer operations?

It starts with the customer–be obsessed with learning from them and make sure to stay connected.

In my experience, the operational parts of the job seem bigger in the beginning, but rarely change over time in your career. I leaned on my managers to coach me through the operational responsibilities, but I had to develop my own customer insights through my own experiences so I could bring my personal perspective when it came to strategic innovation.

As I started to develop and grow in my role, I had to protect that touchpoint to the customer so I didn’t lose my capability to create the right experiences for them. I feel inspired when I am around our customers. They are more engaged and dedicated to the success of our brand, and I want to build something that they will love and continue to love.

8. Birchbox opened its corporate headquarters in the Flatiron District in 2013. What makes Flatiron such a great fit for the BB team, and what do you enjoy most about working in this neighborhood?

The energy! The people who work at Birchbox are fast-paced, active, and motivated by new things, and there is always something to see and do in the area from pop-up activations in front of the Flatiron Building to educational installations in Madison Square Park.

9.  When it’s time to grab a bite to eat in the area, where do you like to dine in the neighborhood? What’s your go-to dish?

maman for caffeine. Trattoria Italienne for happy hour. Tacombi for esquites and egg tacos. Eataly for everything and anything.

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

Energetic. Convenient. Dynamic.

Feb 14, 2020

Flatiron Faces: Susanna Woodley, Area Director of Sales, The Assemblage

Meet Susanna Woodley, Area Director of Sales of The Assemblage, a co-working space with two locations in the neighborhood: NoMad on 114 East 25th Street, and Park Avenue South between 24th and 25th Streets. “Our intention,” says Woodley about each location, “is to create spaces to uplift and transform the way you work and how you feel about working.”

 1. The Assemblage NoMad and Park Avenue South locations offer clients flexible co-working spaces and private offices. The workspaces are “intentionally designed to foster personal and professional transformation.” Tell us more.

We incorporated biophilic design into all of The Assemblage houses. Studies show having natural elements within the space, for example, plants, living moss walls, natural materials, help to reduce stress and anxiety, which, of course, is bound to affect how you engage with one another, how you approach or conduct professional meetings, how it increases your productivity levels–all because of our custom surroundings.

 2. Community is a strong tenant of The Assemblage’s philosophy. Describe the curation of nightly cultural programming to encourage the active participation of members. What programs and events are most popular?

Our dynamic programming brings a new dimension to social interaction. Our mass sound meditations and biohacking events always pack the houses with members and their guests. Having innovative speakers in the blockchain space, science, sustainability, or social impact themes in business are also quite popular. Programming is the gateway to members coming, sharing ideas, learning, and interacting with one another and collaborating. Matter of fact, most of our events are curated, hosted or are co-produced by our members. It’s so important for us to offer that kind of platform to our community.

 3. The Assemblage spaces are dedicated to supporting the health and wellness of your members. Offerings include meditation rooms, rooftop gardens, and botanical cafés. How does wellness add value to a workplace? 

Good question! It’s no secret that the hustle culture in New York City can be both mentally and physically unhealthy. The Assemblage was one of the first to really incorporate wellness into a collaborative workspace environment to help counteract that. Our members can take 30 minutes in the Gong Room for a breathwork class, make healthy food decisions throughout the day since the café always has seasonal, organic and locally sourced options, relax with a quick Vitamin D break outside on our sunny, plant-filled rooftop, end their day with our cacao ceremonies–all of these wellness components are invaluable in the workplace.

 4.  What types of business sectors gravitate toward the space?

The sheer variety of businesses in this neighborhood are amazing! Our community is a home to creative/brand agencies, blockchain consultants, software developers, architects, interior designers, fintech startups, health practitioners, sustainable fashion and food enterprises…it’s less about what type of businesses gravitates toward us and more so the type of mindful space they want to align themselves and their business with.  

 5. How does your role as The Assemblage’s Area Director of Sales differ from a typical sales job?

Other sales jobs can be harsh and extremely competitive. Having access to these beautiful Assemblage houses allows me to escape the sales grind mentality and more importantly, provides the opportunity to lead a sales team with better focus and clarity without feeling anxious. I can honestly say that no matter what is going on in my day, my shoulders immediately drop down when I enter these houses. Maybe it’s the palo santo we use–haha!

 6. Tell us why the Flatiron District was the ideal neighborhood for two Assemblage locations.

We opened in the Fall of 2017. The Flatiron area was ideal because it’s one of the most desirable neighborhoods for startups, entrepreneurs, and even large established companies. This neighborhood has everything a business, large or small, could want. The parks, restaurants, shops, etc., and it is incredibly easy to get to from any part of town. We wanted to create an oasis, focused on wellness and nature, in the middle of the action where it was needed the most! If you are located at either of our Flatiron houses, your business is automatically in one of the topmost desirable districts in the world–that is very valuable to our members.

7. Sales and the hospitality business are competitive industries. What led you to consider this type of career? What’s the best advice that you can offer to those who are interested in pursuing this profession?

When I first started my career in sales, it was completely by accident. I was in a member service role and my boss at the time said that I had a knack for effortlessly developing relationships with people, a common trait she mostly saw in sales professionals. So that obviously stuck with me and I made the transition into sales.  I felt good to pursue a career that was pretty much aligned with my personality.

As for advice, first, diversify your networking and social circles. You would be surprised to learn that there are sales roles–some less traditional than others–in just about every business. Also, you have to believe in whatever it is you are selling. If not, you will just come across inauthentic.  Motto: If you are not into it, don’t try to sell it.

8. When it’s time to grab a bite, where do you like to dine in the neighborhood? Do you have a go-to dish?

Oh man…so many. My go-to: The Little Beet Table. Guilty pleasure: Lady M Connections.

9. Outside of your venue, what do you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" hidden gem in the community?

A “must-see” is any art installation happening at Madison Square Park. I’m still in awe of Diana Al-Hadid’s work from two years ago! A “must-do” would be a visit to the Museum of Sex, LOL! Its playful, informative and always eye-opening.

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

Evolving. Architecture. Connection.



Jan 28, 2020

Flatiron Faces: Vegan Chef Gaz Oakley, wagamama

The Japanese-inspired restaurant wagamama is kicking off the year in partnership with UK-based, vegan Chef Gaz Oakley to create a signature plant-based dish: Vegan Sticky Asian ‘Ribs’. This creation features barbecued seitan caramelized and glazed in a spicy cherry sauce that’s garnished with sesame seeds and scallions. The ‘ribs’ will be paired with steamed broccolini, chilis, and sticky white rice.

Oakley’s newest creation compliments his previous collab that became a permanent feature on wagamama’s menu in the United States, the avant gard’n’ that features a vegan egg made with miso-infused coconut and sriracha mayo. 

1. Landing a collaboration with wagamama was one of your biggest achievements to date. Please elaborate on this partnership and your creative process.

I admired wagamama even as a kid when I had one of their first cookbooks. I knew that I wanted to create something really exciting and use it as an opportunity to spread vegan options to a wider audience. That’s why I conceive dishes with ingredients like the vegan ‘egg’ or ‘ribs' that put a vegan spin on something that’s familiar. I was a meat-eater for 20+ years, and I love the taste and texture of meat. If I can create meals in a cruelty-free way with a taste and texture that's just as good, I'm all for it. 

2. Vegan is all the rage. What do you think is the biggest misconception around veganism, and what do you imagine for the future of vegan cuisine?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to give up all these really exciting flavors if you go vegan. There are really unique, creative options out there that taste brilliant and use a variety of ingredients. There has been a lot of momentum around veganism in the last few years, so I imagine some really inventive dishes emerging. I know Asian flavors and plant-based imitation for traditional meat dishes are becoming more popular now because of their approachable flavors. I was thrilled to get ahead of these trends with wagamama.

3. You promote the vegan lifestyle as activism. Tell us more about your philosophy on food choices making a difference.

I was truly struck by a speech by animal liberation activist Gary Yourofsky. I had already seen a bit on social media, so I was intrigued by his thoughts around veganism. It brought a number of issues to my attention: the cruelty that is happening every single day to animals on farms and in slaughterhouses around the world, the devastation that animal agriculture has on our planet, and the damaging effects that eating animal products can have on our bodies. From that day on, I knew I would be vegan for the rest of my life.

4. Please speak to the health benefits that you’ve experienced since becoming vegan. Which recipes do you consider ‘vegan gateways’ for people looking to reduce their consumption of animal products?

I immediately felt lighter and had more energy when I became vegan. I didn’t feel like I was eating these heavy ingredients anymore. In terms of gateways, I think that the space to find recipes and new styles of cooking has only grown. There are so maybe different spaces to exchange ideas whether it's social groups and communities online or looking up chefs like myself who share dishes designed for people to make at home. Some of my most popular how-to videos are my recipes for Sticky BBQ 'Ribs' (the recipe that inspired the collab dish with wagamama), 'Fish' & Chips, and My Famous Vegan Lasagna.

5. Your work weeks can be very long – even up to 80 hours. How do you maintain physical and mental health in the grind?

When I was younger, I was really motivated to play rugby professionally. Even though I had more passion for cooking, I still deeply value having the opportunity to exercise and use it to relieve stress and mentally unwind. I’m also very fortunate that I get to be quite active and travel with my cooking. I had a traditional job early on, and I definitely feel more excited each day when I wake up and have a role outside of the regular 9 to 5 pm.

6. When you share your story about becoming a chef at the age of 15, you mention fond memories of learning from fellow chefs in the kitchen. Looking back, what words of wisdom or teaching moments stood out most?

From the beginning, I actively worked to develop relationships with the Head Chefs at each of the restaurants I was fortunate enough to join. Some of the best advice that I received was to keep pushing and never limit yourself to what can be created in the kitchen. It can be easy to continue cooking the same dishes day after day once they prove to be successful, but I was taught to question each component of the plate and ask how it can be improved. That mentality has continued to inspire me as I work to create vegan dishes like the ‘ribs’.

7. Since you’ve launched your YouTube Channel ‘Avant Garde Vegan’ in 2016, you have impressively gained 903K+ YouTube subscribers. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who create original content?

Don’t be afraid of doing something just because it’s a bit of outside your comfort zone or you need to self-teach. I had no experience in the realm of digital or the ‘influencer world’ but I watched others before me and spent countless hours learning how to edit photos. You have to have confidence in what you’re doing and truly believe in the content you’re putting out there. When you care and are willing to take a chance, people are that much more interested in what you have to offer.

8. Outside of the kitchen, how do you like to spend your time? 

I really enjoy getting to spend time outside, so anything that allows me to be active and spend time with friends. I’m also very interested in opening my own restaurant one day and plan to make a big announcement on that when I reach 1 million subscribers.

9. You’re based in the UK, but you travel to New York frequently. What do you consider a “must do” or “must eat” here in Flatiron?

When I travel to the US with wagamama, I’ve been lucky to see all different parts of the city including Flatiron. I enjoy walking around Madison Square Park and seeing the art exhibits on display while taking in the view of the Flatiron Building at the same time. I love a good vegan burger with tons of different toppings, so that’s normally what I'm in search of when in the city. 

10. And finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Unique. Community-based. Innovative.

Photo Credit: wagamama

Dec 16, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Founder-Chef-Baker Paul Allam, Bourke Street Bakery

Meet Paul Allam, Founder-Chef-Baker at Bourke Street Bakery, located at 15 East 28th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues, in the Flatiron District. “We feel a bakery should be a welcoming place, a part of the community,” says Allam, who initially opened Bourke Street Bakery in his hometown of Sydney, Australia in 2004. “We really believe that good food and community are essential ingredients for a better life.”

1. At Bourke Street Bakery your day begins at 4 am. Describe your role there and how your day unfolds.

It’s dark and cold and quiet…it’s feels like the whole world is asleep…It’s peaceful here. I fire up the ovens and put my favorite music on. It’s pretty peaceful till 7 am when we open the doors and the regulars come in for coffee. I have two other wonderful bakers working with me now who have learned the Bourke Street way, so I share the load with them.

2. You’ve defined your Flatiron café as an Australian bakery with an American twist of “service food but very relaxed and casual.” Tell us more.

We are an all-day bakery café. We don’t take shortcuts with our food and only buy the best ingredients we can lay our hands on. Most of our food is handmade and takes a long time to make. We serve breakfast, lunch, and everything in between. We are very serious about food. We are milling grains for our sourdough breads and making all our pastries, cakes, and cookies from scratch. What’s most Australian about us is that we are crazy about coffee. Australians are fanatical about coffee and it’s a huge part of what we do. We also make sandwiches and soups and seasonal plates. Despite having strong food values, we are always very relaxed and friendly with our service.

3. What bakery items do you recommend to customers during this holiday season?

You must try our limited edition fruit mince pies–they are irresistible! Also, our gingerbread people. We have a great quince and strawberry jam on the shelf at the moment. I love quince. Also, our chocolate sauce makes a great gift!

4. You began your career as a savory chef. What led you to pursue a career in artisanal baking, and what’s the best advice that you can offer to those who are interested in pursuing this profession?

I became a trained chef when I finished school and starting working in restaurants in Sydney, Prague, and London. I got a chance to work with some wonderful chefs who prioritized the highest quality produce and real artisan techniques, and I got to make sourdough with one of the chefs I worked for, her name was Alex Herbert. I just loved it. I always loved working with my hands and there is something meditative about making sourdough–it’s such a long process. The way we make it often milling the grains and mixing and shaping and resting with long fermentation and high hydrations. It’s a handmade product and there are so many factors that you have to get right. I like that no two loaves are 100% the same. It’s so satisfying when the loaves come out blooming and baked well. It’s a gift for me.

5. You, your wife Jessica, and children relocated to New York. As a Sydney native, what you do find most appealing about Flatiron (personally and professionally)? What do you miss about your hometown?

Jess and I are both loving being in NYC. This neighborhood is especially lovely–what is most appealing is our wonderful customers! Many live in the neighborhood or work close by. They are so warm and polite, and very grateful that we’ve opened. They love our coffee and food and often come back sometimes several times a day–that is very heartening for me. It’s always great when I make something and see people enjoying it and coming back for more. What I miss most about Sydney, apart from my family and friends, is having a garden. In Sydney, we had chickens and fresh eggs every day and fruit trees and a veggie garden and a pizza oven in the backyard. That was pretty special.

6. You have also authored three books: Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking CompanionAll Things Sweet: Unbeatable Recipes Recipes From the Iconic Bakery, and The Bread & Butter Project: How to Make Perfect Bread. Do you plan to publish more culinary books? What do you find rewarding about writing on this subject?

Sure, I’d love to write one about Bourke Street Bakery: The New York Recipes, sharing all the new dishes we’re making and baking here.

7. Switching gears to your life outside of work–how do you like to spend your time away from the bakery?

Before I had three children, I spent every spare minute or cent eating, reading, or traveling. Now I spend most of my free time with the kids (often still eating, reading, and traveling!). They do accompany me to lots of great restaurants and have wonderful and varied appetites, so food is a big part of my life when I’m not at the Bourke Street Bakery. I play a lot of basketball, soccer, and tag with the kids. I bake and cook and play chess with them. They keep me endlessly entertained and worried–depending on what’s going on!

8. As a lover of food, are there some standout dishes in the neighborhood that you make a point to enjoy (other than your own)?

We’ve had fantastic meals at Atoboy. I love their food! The chefs are very talented and the service is excellent.

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

Kalustyan’s is a hidden gem for me as I’m always running there for magical ingredients–it’s like an Aladdin’s Cave for a chef.

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

Historic. Creative. Convenient.

Photo Credit: Gary He

Nov 8, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa of Hou de Sousa, Winners of the 2019 Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition

Meet Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa, cofounders of the award-winning architectural, art, and design studio Hou de Sousa. The pair is also this year’s winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition held by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute.

Hou de Sousa’s art installation, Ziggy, features 20,000 feet of iridescent cord that visually converge and dynamically filter the surrounding context with shifting patterns, color, and light. Ziggy will be on display on the Flatiron North Public Plaza as part of the Partnership’s “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” holiday programming from November 18th through January 1st. Check out Ziggy sneak peek photos

1. Congratulations on being selected as this year’s winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition for your art installation, Ziggy. What was your reaction upon hearing the news?

Nancy Hou: The opportunity to participate in this annual competition is an incredible honor. We had followed the results over the years, and really admire the quality and cleverness of the past pavilions. So, when the news arrived that we had actually won, we were ecstatic!  

2. Tell us about Ziggy. What was your inspiration for the installation and its name?

Josh de Sousa: We began by thinking about the footprint and form of the Flatiron Building and how its shape is a direct consequence of urban planning, and the consistency of the Manhattan grid thrown off kilter by Broadway’s diagonal route.

NH: Ziggy will be located on Flatiron North Plaza, but rather than attempt to occupy the entirety of the space, we thought of the site as a sort of pool table that limits the trajectory of the design. I don’t remember who it was, but one of us doodled a sketch of a ricocheting pool ball, and the rest of the design flowed from there.

JD: In terms of the name, we figured Ziggy was apropos given the zigzagging course of the project, plus, who doesn’t love David Bowie? 

3. What do you hope the public’s takeaway will be when experiencing the artwork?

NH: Nothing all that fancy or profound, just that it provides some joy and seating for those in need of a break. 

JD: Now that we’re pretty far along with the fabrication of the project, we’ve tested out the lighting and it’s clear that Ziggy must be experienced in person. While the project is 100% analog, its iridescent glow suggests that you’re observing and walking around a collage of the digital and the real or some form of augmented reality. 

4. Your firm Hou de Sousa “promotes innovative, culturally progressive and environmentally responsible solutions.” Please elaborate on this and briefly describe your roles at Hou de Sousa.

NH: Design is a process that takes time and involves lots of folks. We try to work with organizations that have a positive public impact, and we strive for solutions that are simultaneously novel, classic, and considerate of the environment. 

JD: We don't have fixed roles at the office and each person does a bit of everything. We've worked with each other since our school days, so our understanding of architecture is really intertwined. Nancy often finishes my sentences during design meetings and vice versa. 

5. What inspired you to create Hou de Sousa? Can you share with us some of the ways you keep your architectural practice fresh and creative?

JD: We worked on a couple of projects together in school, and quickly realized that we were coming up with better projects together than individually. When the first commission opportunity arrived years later, it didn’t seem so crazy to go after it. 

NH: For us, the start of each project is pretty informal. Architecture is the marathon of problem-solving. With each new project, there is a ton of information to parse through and a constellation of constraints to consider. Along the way, we tend to entertain every idea that pops up, even during the early stages. Sometimes these initial hunches have worked out really well or got us on the right track. 

6. Nancy and Josh, you both studied architecture in undergraduate and graduate school. What sparked your interest in architecture? 

NH: My interests growing up tended to always involved making something, whether it was art, origami, or cooking. 

JD: I can remember the specific moment. I was playing with my cousins in Portugal when we were all around 11 or 12 years old. We were at this rocky shore and started rolling large stones around in order to build the outline of a small swimming pool. It was surprisingly satisfying to piece together this simple wall and watch the water fill in. Imagining physical possibilities, and then executing the outcome, was tremendously addictive. 

7. Outside of New York City, which cities do you consider architecturally interesting or significant? Any favorites come to mind?  

JD: It’s tough to narrow down the list, and it would be lovely to visit many more places. Paris really stands out due its consistency, whereas Tokyo and Barcelona are compelling for the exact opposite reason. Rio’s topography and Hong Kong’s density are astounding. If Rome only had Borromini, it would already be incredible. I also love the quality of the light and enormous scale of Los Angeles.   

NH: The list of buildings is much longer, but some that always manage to come up in conversation include Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals in rural Switzerland, the Seattle Public Library, and the High Line [in New York City].

8. Your offices are located in nearby Union Square. However, when you’re in the Flatiron District and it’s time to grab a bite, where do you like to eat? Do you have a go-to dish?

NH: On special occasions, our favorite is Cosme. We visit Periyali, Scampi, and Eataly’s Il Pesce more regularly, as we both grew up eating lots of seafood. I’m getting hungry just thinking about Periyali’s octopus and Il Pesce’s flounder. 

JD: Oh, and Xi’an Famous Foods when we’re craving something spicy. 

9. What do each of you consider a "must-see” or “must-do" gem in the Flatiron community

NH: Of course the Flatiron Building. Its svelte tapered form factor cloaked with a rich texture of ornament is timelessly chic.

JD: Allied Works’ renovation of Eleven Madison Park is incredibly elegant as well. Love the way the molding details fold across between the walls and ceiling. 

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

Abundant. Cheerful. Elegant.


Oct 4, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Christian Nimand Jansen, Director of Nutrition, Dr Smood

Meet Christian Nimand Jansen, Director of Nutrition at Dr Smood, an organic cuisine café located at 1151 Broadway, between 26th and 27th Streets, in the Flatiron District. “For people who have busy schedules and need healthy food on the go,” says Jansen, “Dr Smood can provide the fast casual experience with the healthiest food possible.” According to the recent health and wellness trends report At the (Healthy) Heart of New York City issued by the Flatiron Partnership, the health and wellness industry has grown significantly in the district. Here, Jansen shares his expertise on Dr Smood’s approach to nutrition, his favorite foods, and maintaining his work-life balance.

1. Briefly describe your position as Director of Nutrition at Dr Smood.

I’m involved in the R&D (research and development) and product creation from ideation to launch in our stores, which includes internal nutritional education and staying up-to-date with the latest research.

2. Dr Smood was founded by Danish businessman René Sindlev and his wife Patrizia, who wanted to create cafés with organic and healthful cuisine backed by real nutrition science. What led you to work with the Sindlevs? And can you share with us the meaning behind the company’s name?

I met René back in Denmark while finishing my studies in 2014. It was actually during the first tasting of our Performance Bread, where he also shared his vision of this new concept, of what was to become Dr Smood: Smart Food (Smood). It’s the dream of moving away from highly processed fast food and essentially create the healthy “fast food” of the future, which revolves around wholesome certified organic ingredients, all sourced from the best farms. 

3. Dr Smood’s food menu consists of health benefits linked to six moods: Power, Beauty, Immunity, Detox, Energy, and Health. Tell us more.

The moods are meant to guide and simplify what to choose, depending on what you’re “in the mood” for. For example, if you’re looking for higher protein content, you go for the Power mood. If you’re feeling under the weather or simply want to keep your immune system in high gear, you go for the anti-inflammatory foods from the Immunity mood. It’s important to note that nutrition is very complex and even though each mood has specific characteristics, there will always be many benefits since nutrients have multiple functions within the body.

4. What are some of your favorite Dr Smood items? Do you have any new items you’re working on that you’d like to share?

If I had to chose one item that I could eat every day, it would be our avocado toast with wild salmon, the matcha latte made with our cashew mylk and a ginger-lime booster. Without getting too nutritional, I feel those give me the best all-round protein, fat, and fiber for satiety, it’s easy to digest and the L-theanine found in matcha gives a mental focus boost. The ginger-lime also helps with digestion and to reduce any inflammation. And it doesn’t hurt that it tastes amazing too.

We’re currently working on some more hearty grain and salad bowls for our winter menu, which allows for more lunch and dinner options, along with Dr Smood-styled baked goods for those with a sweet tooth to compliment their coffee.

5. You've earned a college degree in global nutrition and health. What initially led you to consider a career in nutrition? What’s the best advice you can offer to those who are interested in pursuing a career in nutrition?

I grew up playing tennis and golf on a rather competitive level, which led me into a very active lifestyle in my late teens. I think it’s a natural process, that you start learning about the role food and nutrition plays in order to train and recover more efficiently. I quickly realized that just scratching the surface of nutrition and physiology wasn’t enough for me, and got very hooked on the science behind food.

My best advice for anyone wanting to study nutrition is staying up to date with relevant research and put ego or beliefs aside. It’s so easy to be biased and subjective, which can lead you to be very narrow-minded or force your own reality to fit the actual science or lack of science. I would recommend that you stay open and be prepared to be proven wrong on what you read or heard.

6. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about nutrition? Any wacky nutritional myths you’d like to clear up? What do you do to keep up to date with your profession?

The more I learned, the more I realized how much we still do not understand completely in the nutrition field. I see a lot of trends surfacing and many people giving in to such trends in order to stay relevant.To be honest, I think that people should be hesitant to follow anyone’s advice, whose blindly claims that they have the one true answer to all your lifestyle diseases or issues. I try to follow those that are considered expert researchers in each of their fields and more often than not, they stay humble and honest about the fact that we actually know very little about the full picture of nutrition and health.

In the end, it’s never a one size fits all and rather than trying to debunk a myth, my best advice is to find what works for you and then stay consistent and be patient. I’ve always had the best results when either having specific goals, short- or long-term or some kind of accountability partner in the form of a coach or friend to be part of my journey from point A to B.

If veganism, keto, fasting, bulletproof coffee, celery juice, Weight Watchers, etc. works for you and you can commit to it long term as a lifestyle, I don’t see anything that should prevent you from doing it. Obviously, some might be more overall effective than others, and simply adding butter to your coffee probably won’t make you reach a weight loss goal. Just don’t try to be a breatharian (living on air and light alone). I’m pretty confident that won’t go well for you.

7. Switching gears to your life outside of work–how do you like to spend your time away from Dr Smood?

When I lived in Denmark, I coached tennis while studying, which kept me pretty active. I had amazing colleagues and a great community, so most of my time was spent between the club and staying active. I lived in Miami for a couple years while we opened up the first Dr Smood there. It allowed me to have an active outdoor life with tennis, golf, scuba diving, and enjoy a bit of the Miami nightlife. I’m still adapting to New York City with the much faster pace, so my day pretty much starts with a CrossFit class at 6.30 a.m., which I feel is the best way to get a head start on the day. I’m not a morning person, but after a long day of NYC pace, I’m not sure that I’m an evening person anymore either. To unwind at home, I do binge some TV shows with my fiancée or spend time on my PS4.

8. When it’s time to grab a bite, where else do you like to dine in the neighborhood? Do you have a go-to dish?

I mostly eat home-cooked meals and get orders from Thrive Market for shelf stable products like nut butters, almond/oat mylk and bars or Misfits Market for fresh veggies that were too “ugly” and didn’t fit the requirements for the “beautiful” supermarket veggie aisles.

My breakfast is usually eggs and a smoothie at home, lunch is an avocado toast or tuna wrap and dinner is grains, greens and wild salmon, chicken, or some kind of veggie patty. I pretty consistently eat the same things, but I’m not fanatic and must admit that Shake Shack does make a pretty good burger.

9. Outside of your venue, what's a "must-see” or “must-do" hidden gem in the community?

Giving credit to my Danish heritage, the bakery Ole & Steen recently opened up in the area and they do make a very good strawberry tart and bake great rye bread, which reminds me of home.

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

Culinary. Innovative. Community.