Jun 17, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Jamie Benson & Hannah Goldman, The Straight Man at The PIT

Meet Jamie Benson and Hannah Goldman, the producers and hosts of The Straight Man, a new variety show spotlighting femme and queer talent at The Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT) on Saturday, June 29th at 9:30 pm. The PIT is located at 123 East 24th Street, between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenue.

1. You initially met during a sketch writing class. What led to your comedy partnership?

Jamie Benson: We share a sense of adventure, are both really game to take ideas too far. Besides being audacious, we play with social commentary and queer-centric themes. There’s some compatibility there.

Hannah Goldman: I always loved the sketches Jamie brought into class–they were smart, biting, and more than a little weird. After the class ended, he sent an email saying that he got a late-night slot at The PIT, so I thought, why not? I had sketch material and wanted to do stand up, so it seemed like a great opportunity to collaborate.

2. What do you enjoy most about working together?

JB: We can deftly navigate the paradox of taking comedy seriously while making fun at every step of the production process. 

HG: We have a great partnership because we’re both willing to take on the work and communicate with each other. My favorite thing about working with Jamie is his straightforward and concise manner. It’s refreshing to work with someone who’s not about the bulls—t.

3. What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you while performing improv?

JB: That’s tough, because improv for me is like a fever dream that I immediately forget upon waking up. That said, I recall giving serious therapeutic advice from a toilet and doing a full interpretive dance to orgasm noises.

HG: My favorite improv memory is going to a competition in high school where I had to perform a Shakespeare soliloquy as Miley Cyrus. I won a prize!

 4. You’re collaborating on The Straight Man, a production you’ve described as a “genre-busting and gender-bending variety show.” Tell us more about how this came to be at The PIT, and about your role in the show.

JB: As a dancer who does comedic, narrative work, I am a genre-buster. This show offers a fertile environment for others to challenge their own perception of themselves, including gender, genre, and more. After transitioning from dance to comedy, I propositioned The PIT to present a show of mine. They gave us a probational, “off-peak” late-night slot, liked it, and invited us to present seasonally.

HG: Our first show was called Gay Stuff because the sketches and stand up were all around queer themes. I wanted a snazzy title for our next show, and came up with The Straight Man: A Comedy Show Without One. I love that phrase because it takes the norm and subverts it. There’s this unspoken rule in comedy that straight men are the norm–“the straight man” is literally an archetype in comedy writing that means a normal person, the voice of reason. We wanted to do something a little less normcore and a little more fabulous!  Every season we select hilarious female and queer comedic talent across genres and celebrate and empower ourselves through laughter.

5. The Straight Man–a comedy show without one–celebrates gay pride. This year’s Pride March, on June 30th, begins in the Flatiron District and marks the 50 years since the Stonewall uprising. Can you share your thoughts on this important anniversary?

JB: There is a ton to celebrate this year, including same-sex marriage in Taiwan and the first openly gay U.S. governor. Unfortunately, there are opposing forces for some of the progress achieved. For instance, the rate of violence against transgender women, particularly those of color, continues to rise. Inclusive rhetoric tends to move faster than inclusive actions. This means that no matter how many affirming slogans we hear, it’s important to stay vigilant in our cultivation of empathy and pursuit of human decency.

HG: It’s so wild and wonderful that so much time has passed and there has been a huge shift toward acceptance of the LBGTQIA+ community in mainstream culture. But, as Jamie said, I think that this acceptance has also led to an erasure of queer and trans people of color–the folks who led the Stonewall riots 50 years ago. It’s our responsibility as cis white queer artists to work to make sure our spaces and culture are inclusive for all folks.

6. Aside from attending your show at The PIT, what do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” pride event here in Flatiron?

JB: Our city is bursting at the seams with historical significance. I know I’m usually in sunglasses/headphone mode and zooming right by it. I say stop and smell Flatiron’s gay pride walking tours. Once you have knowledge about the interesting stuff all around us, it can spread and pride can be something we celebrate every day.

HG: Honestly, the best thing I can recommend is to go to Madison Square Park during the Pride March on June 30th. Get a milkshake, stand on a concrete block, and watch all the floats go by! Mesh top optional.

7. Can you share some of your other upcoming productions at The PIT? Do you perform at other venues here in New York City?

JB: Oh sure, I’ve performed everywhere from the Park Avenue Armory, South Street Seaport, and Broadway Comedy Club. My first sketch, Avenue WTF, will be screening this summer with the NewFilmmakers series at Anthology Film Archives (Trivia: I wrote this sketch in the class where I met Hannah). Keep up with us via our webpage and @straightmancomedy on Instagram for the scoop on our next PIT show.

HG: I’ve performed at venues all over the city, from off-Broadway houses like HERE Arts Center to a living room in Greenpoint. Up next, I’ll be performing at a pop-up space at 198 Allen Street on the Lower East Side for a benefit for Period: The Menstrual Movement. Get ready for lots of vagina jokes!

8. When you’re here in Flatiron working, where do you like to grab a bite to eat? Do you have a go-to dish?

JB: I’m a variety junkie and there are a lot of great local places to grab food, so I alternate. If I feel like I’m making poor health-life choices, I may go to The Little Beet Table. If I’m in need of drinks and comfort food, I may hit up a place like Dog & Bone.

HG: If you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to check out Lady M Confections on 28th Street and Broadway. They have the most insane cakes. I love anything chocolate–always super rich and delicious.

9. What advice can you offer for those who are interested in performing comedy?

JB: Don’t settle for anything that doesn’t surprise people. Most laughs seem to come from a surprise or left turn. It doesn’t have to be a shocking or shallow twist for the sake of doing it. Commit to a character or idea but challenge yourself to find new directions for that character or idea.

HG: Do the work. Go to lots of open mics and work on your material. Learn how to read an audience and refine your jokes until they hit just the right chord. Natural talent is only the entry point. The real secret to successful comics is putting in a lot of hard work.

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

JB: Bustling. Historic. Iconic.

HG: Fresh. Crisp. Bright.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Stone

May 20, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Hilton Douglas, Housing & Outreach Specialist, Urban Pathways

Meet Hilton Douglas, a Housing & Outreach Specialist at Urban Pathways, the social services agency that offers housing assistance to individuals living without shelter in the neighborhood. “We applaud the BID for partnering with us in a way that is socially responsible,” says Hilton about the organization's collaboration with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. “By working with Urban Pathways, they are not simply pushing out the very complex problem of homelessness as has happened in other cities, rather helping to create sustainable solutions.”

1. You’ve been part of Urban Pathways’ team in the Flatiron District for over a decade. Can you please provide more information about this partnership?

Urban Pathways’ partnership with the Flatiron BID is one of our best. The previous Executive Director, Jennifer Brown, was instrumental in ensuring that we began by having a shared understanding of what was required and necessary to be successful right from the start. Communication is key–we had initial meetings with the Flatiron BID and their Board of Directors who, from the beginning, were very involved and demonstrated that they cared about the neighborhood, its businesses, and what we do to assist the homeless population. We also are involved with the Homeless and Housing Committee of NYPD’s Midtown South Community Council and the Community Board.

Over the past 10 years, we have significantly reduced the number of homeless people in the Flatiron District by helping them get access to housing and services. One ongoing challenge is addressing the needs of the chronically resistant homeless. Scott Kimmins, the BID's Director of Operations, works with our team daily and is very involved with helping this population.

2. What types of social services do you offer individuals, and what’s the goal of these services?

We canvass the neighborhood daily and offer services and support to the homeless. An important first step is developing trust. Then, the services that we provide depend on the needs of the individual. 

Our goal as Outreach Workers is to move homeless men and women off the streets and into housing.  At our Drop-In Center on West 30th Street, we provide meals, showers, and counseling–this can be a first step for someone to accept services and support. We also offer housing at our Safe Havens. If we have openings, we can provide a single or double room at one of our three Safe Havens, which are an alternative to the mainstream shelter system. Some individuals do not want to enter the shelter system, they just want to be housed.

One obstacle faced by many people who are homeless is that they do not have the documents they need to apply for permanent housing, such as a government issued ID and a social security card.  Urban Pathways’ Case Managers help each client to attain the documents and entitlements needed to apply for housing.  

The goal of our Outreach work is to move people off the streets and into transitional housing (Safe Havens). Once a person is housed and becomes acclimated to being indoors, they can work with an Urban Pathways’ Case Manager on their sobriety, hygiene, physical and mental health, and the development of social support networks. Our overall goal is to move people off the streets and ultimately into permanent housing where they can become self-sufficient.

3. How did you become an Outreach Specialist? 

I have worked for Urban Pathways for 13 years now. I was initially hired as an Entitlement Specialist; I worked with homeless clients primarily to assist them in securing the documents, benefits and entitlements needed to attain housing. 

In 2010, I was promoted to Housing Specialist due my breadth of experience with clients and housing. Then I was selected to serve as a Housing and Outreach Case Manager and more recently as a Housing and Outreach Specialist. I take pride in my work and in the relationships that I develop with our clients.

 4. What is the most challenging part of your job? And the most gratifying?

The most challenging part of my job is engaging with someone who really needs help but who refuses the help and services that we are providing. The most gratifying thing about my job is seeing someone that I worked with get an apartment. It’s also really rewarding when someone I am working with moves into a Safe Haven or transitional setting. It’s just great to see someone turn their life around, and then often I see that they start helping others to do the same.

5. Can you share an example of a success story in which someone ultimately obtained permanent housing thanks to the services you provided?

I have a lot of examples. I have housed over 200 people since I have been employed at Urban Pathways. I worked with a woman in the Flatiron District who was very resistant. I placed her in temporary housing at Travelers Safe Haven on West 40th Street, and she now lives in permanent housing. 

For a long time, I engaged a gentleman who would stay in the Flatiron area and never wanted to come inside. Over time, I developed his trust, he accepted services and was placed in Urban Pathways’ Hallet’s Cove Residence and he is now living independently in Queens.  

6. What do you think is the most common misconception people have about New Yorkers living without shelter?

The most common misconception about people living without shelter is that it’s their fault. Many people assume that the person must have done something wrong to end up homeless. People make assumptions that homeless people are lazy, uneducated, and on drugs. 

You would be surprised to see the number of homeless we engage with that have college degrees and have had jobs, unfortunately, they have also had a series of unfortunate events that have led them to being homeless. Often someone becomes homeless following the onset of mental illness.

7. What advice do you have for those interested in helping those living without shelter?

The advice I would give is not to give money directly to a person who is homeless. If you want to immediately help someone in need, give them food or clothing.You can also request Outreach Cards from Urban Pathways to give to the homeless (email your request for cards to development@urbanpathways.org). These cards include resources and contact information for a wide range of services to help a person in need. 

If you want to help homeless people over the long run, donate to nonprofits serving the homeless like Urban Pathways. 

8. What future initiatives does the Urban Pathways Outreach Team have for the community? 

Urban Pathways’ Outreach Team has done a lot of good work in the Flatiron area. Most homeless men and women in the area have been helped by Urban Pathways and many have been relocated to transitional or permanent housing. Things look a lot different than they did 10 years ago.

As we strive to provide comprehensive services to at-risk and homeless men and women, we develop on-going and lasting partners to assist us in serving our clients. Recently, we have begun partnering with Housing Works, located throughout New York City, to provide medical and psychiatric services to the men and women we serve. We also continue to work in collaboration with other Outreach Teams to provide a coordinated effort to move people off the streets and into shelters or housing.

9. What else do you think can be done to assist those in need?

Recently, we are seeing more younger homeless men and women who are abusing drugs. These individuals tend to be very resistant to help. I think we need more substance abuse programs and coordination between these programs and our Outreach efforts. 

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

Progressive. Iconic. Venerable.

Photo Credit: Urban Pathways

Apr 9, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Agador @poochofnyc

Meet Agador, the stylish Maltipoo Instagram star with 140,000 followers @poochofnyc. The Flatiron District is one of his favorite areas for a photo shoot. “It’s a photographer's playground,” says Agador, whose résumé includes Google ads, the Rachael Ray Show, and Katy Perry’s “Bon Appétit” teaser video. “The neighborhood is a great place to socialize and relax on the benches or sit at one of the many café tables scattered throughout the Plazas.”

1. You are quite the Instagram sensation! How do you come up with your Instagram posts? Do you have any favorite spots in the Flatiron neighborhood that make great photo backgrounds?
I have two creatively insane Dads [Francis Bott and Allan Monteron] whom I've hired as my stylist, photographer, and writer. Our home base is in New York City, however, we travel the world together to capture fresh, unique, and interesting content to share with our followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The Flatiron Plazas and adjoining Madison Square Park are two of my favorite destinations. My Dads produced many photos and videos from these locations as you can always capture something uniquely New York in the background, whether it is the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building, lampposts, taxis, buses, subway entrances, seasonal art installations, or food events.

2. Your name is unique. Tell us how you got the name Agador, and how did you decide on @poochofnyc as your Instagram handle?
As a long time fan of the movie The Birdcage and the character Agador Spartacus, Dad said it was an easy choice to find a unique name for such a unique looking dog. @poochofnyc took a little more thought as Instagram names do, but it seemed easy enough to remember, although it is certainly a lot to live up to.

3. You serve some major looks. Tell us about your fashion style. Do you have a favorite piece? Go-to accessory? 
My prized possessions are my custom denim jackets. In the cold weather, I layer them with button downs and turtlenecks, and, of course, I never leave home without my favorite collection of eyeglasses, so I'm always prepared to strike a #cooldude or #agadorable pose for the camera.

4. Your signature hair has deemed you the “Bob Ross of dogs.” What is your hair routine?
Once every two weeks shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse, and tease my big round head twice a day.

5. The pressure of being an Instagram celebrity… you must get recognized in the neighborhood all the time. Do you have any memorable fan encounters?
It's always a pleasure to meet fans. On a regular basis, we have fans that ask us to meet with them for a photo. The Flatiron District is a convenient place for us and an easy location to find the out-of-town tourist. I'm not going to name drop, but you would be surprised how many celebrities we spot walking through the Park that recognize us from Instagram.

6. You have a little brother named Fred @littlefreddietinkles (good looks run in the family!). What do you two enjoy doing together? 
@littlefreddietinkles is a cutie! A bit of a pain in the keister as little brothers tend to be, but we definitely like exploring new places together as we travel around this city and the world together. He is the bad boy of the family and definitely worth a follow on Instagram for a good laugh now and again.

7. Your posts routinely feature fine wine. Where's your favorite place to grab a glass in Flatiron? And do like red, white, or rosé?
I love a good glass of red wine (well, at least Dad does)! Weather permitting, he always loves to grab a few glasses of Merlot or Cabernet on a sunny afternoon at any one of the local restaurants with outdoor seating such as Almond or Tappo Thin Crust Pizza. Outdoor seating means that I'm always welcome to join. Tables always fill quickly in the Flatiron area, so no time to be choosy! 

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?
I thoroughly enjoy spending my afternoons at Madison Square Park where the city feels a little quieter and more relaxed. Periodically, there are new art installations, food fairs, or even concerts performed in the Park, which is always a welcome distraction from the norm.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area? 
The Flatiron Building and adjoining Plazas, of course! I am fascinated by the building's architectural design and details of the façade. It makes an awesome background in a photo. It is easily recognizable and iconic for New York City. 

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

Photo Credit: Allan Monteron

Mar 1, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Leanne Shear, Uplift Studios & Flatiron BID Board

In honor of the celebration of women's achievements during Women's History Month, meet Leanne Shear, Co-Founder and President of Uplift Studios, a women-only fitness and female society located at 24 West 23rd Street. “Fitness is our fulcrum,” says Shear, “but our aim is to help women become physically strong, which in turn permeates out into their professional, emotional, and interpersonal lives."

1. You’re the Co-Founder and President of Uplift Studios, New York City’s first women-only fitness and wellness facility that opened in 2012. What does Uplift offer, and what’s your day-to-day look like?

Uplift offers group classes, small group training, and amazing one-on-one personal training for women. We also do a certification program called "Fitness for the Female Body,” in addition to lots of events outside of fitness to empower women in all aspects of their lives.

My day-to-day is very busy, and varied! I am always up really early. In addition to being very much a morning person (someone please tell me how people are possibly productive at night!), I spend a lot of time on the ground with my staff and our clients. I still have a few personal training clients myself so I stay engaged that way, and I also spend a good portion of my day engaging in staff development, mentorship, and everything else I can think of to keep our young and amazing group of women motivated and moving forward. I have also been doing a lot of public speaking lately on topics like "Female Empowerment Through Fitness," "Empowered Leadership,” and other topics stemming from female empowerment, which is our specialty. 

2. International Women’s Day is March 8th. How do you and your business hope to make a positive impact on the lives of women?

The good news is, I don't have to hope we make a positive impact on women because I already know we do. Every single day, I hear from clients and the women who come in our doors about how special Uplift is and the powerful ways in which it instills confidence and strength in women. From day one, being women-only was non-negotiable, as was being authentic and welcoming to every single woman out there. I am really proud of the fact that there is room for every woman at our table, and also of the fact that we have so many different demographics of women coming in. We appeal to religious women who cannot workout around men, pre- and post-natal women, women over 50. It's such a mixed bag of fascinating females! Our motto is "Strong Women Uplift Each Other" and I literally and figuratively see that every single day with our clientele and staff across the board.

3. Uplift offers various types of group classes. Do you have a favorite class, or favorite type of workout?

I love all of our classes–and I try to take classes as often as possible, almost every day if I can. We are always tweaking and improving and learning. I would say our Strength class is our signature and a great place to start. But I would also say our personal training is really incredible–we spend an inordinate amount of time training our Coaches to be truly connected to their clients so it's so much more than just a workout.

4. Flatiron is a hotbed for fitness and wellness studios. Do you have any advice for others interested in the industry?

Yes, it's wonderful how fitness has flourished in Flatiron. I think another great thing about our district is that there are shorter term spaces to rent, too, through places like Breather and all of the incredible event and co-working spaces in our area. I think based on that I would advise anyone wanting to start a fitness or wellness or really any kind of business that would potentially entail brick and mortar to do a pop-up or short-term lease to test the waters and get a feel for what being a long-term lease holder for a business might encompass.

5. You joined the Board of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Board Member in 2018. What compelled you to get involved, and going back to Uplift, why did you choose to locate in the neighborhood?

I really and truly love the Flatiron District. It's so centrally located and so chock-full of amazing businesses and powerhouse people. I was so honored to join the Board because I want to do everything I can to work toward supporting the hard work of the BID staff who work tirelessly to make our district as hospitable as possible to the people that live, work, and visit here. 

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

I love to travel, I read an enormous amount, I love to run, and I spend a lot of time with friends and family–I am really lucky to have a huge tribe. 

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

We have SUCH amazing food here. I somewhat recently discovered Obicà for pizza and wine and I love it. My best kept secret for and great little Happy Hour is Punch Bar & Grill (Happy Hour is all day for those that are interested and they have surprisingly good food, too), Oxido, Mangia, and Pret a Manger (the lentil soup is amazing) are my very quick go-to lunch spots since Uplift is sandwiched between them. And for me, the best of the best in our neighborhood is the new Freehand hotel and the rooftop bar there, Broken Shaker

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

One thing on my very short list is the free Sunday walking tour of the Flatiron–what an awesome amenity, and I can't wait to partake in it. I adore Madison Square Park. Strolling through there even at the busiest times of the day brings my stress levels down by a factor of about 10. I also love the Public Plazas, particularly the one right on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue and Broadway where the BID does incredible programming. It's the best respite when I have a few minutes to get a tea and soak up a little bit of sun, even for five minutes. Finally, I love the women-only co-working space Luminary. You can drop in any day with their day pass–their inside space is so cool and cozy and beautiful–and they also have a fitness studio and glam bar, and anyone can partake in those offerings.

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

The Flatiron Building is so iconic that I find myself staring up at it whenever it's in sight. I actually also love the building where Uplift lives, not because I am biased (well, not entirely :) ), but because while it is small, it's a landmarked building, and we are on the second floor and have gorgeous floor to ceiling original windows. I have a little office set up in the very front corner of our space so I can kick up my feet and gaze out the window, caught up in the bustling BID below me. It's one of my favorite moments of zen every day!

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

Vibrant. Thriving. Diverse.

Photo Credit: Uplift Studios

Feb 4, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Maria Gelashvili, Owner & Head Designer, Flowers By Blooming Affairs

Meet Maria Gelashvili, Owner & Head Designer of Flowers By Blooming Affairs, a “new-fashioned flower shop” at 925 Broadway, between 21st and 22nd Streets. “We make sure we give our clients an exceptional floral experience,” says Gelashvili, who begins her day at 6 am. “We have to get fresh flowers every day!”

1. Flowers by Blooming Affairs has been in the Flatiron District for nearly two decades, and you and your family became owners two years ago. What has made the business so successful over the years? Have you made changes to the business? 

Flowers By Blooming Affairs is a family-operated business. My husband and I have made a lot of positive changes. Our neighbors and returning customers always comment on how different the store is compared to how it was years ago.  

2. What do you offer at Flowers by Blooming Affairs?

We provide flowers for all occasions, whether it be weekly arrangements for lobbies and offices or arrangements for corporate events. We also offer discounts for companies and incorporate European floral design methods.

3. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. What are your recommendations for the occasion?

Blooming Affairs can guarantee many different arrangements for Valentine’s Day. Whatever the customer wants, we are able to meet their vision. It’s one of our biggest days of the year, and we always make sure we are fully prepared for anything. Red roses are the most popular during this holiday. We come up with creative ways to incorporate them, so designs don’t become repetitive.

4. Do you have a favorite flower or flower arrangement?

My favorite flower is pink ranunculus, and our favorite arrangement goes by the name “Vogue.” I love soft pastel colors. Purple and pink are our store’s theme colors.

5. What led you to owning a small floral business?

We love adventures and we think business is an adventure. It’s fun and rewarding, but sometimes it is frustrating. However, we are so grateful and happy that we are in one of the best neighborhoods in New York City. Our customers are very nice and supportive in every way. Flowers By Blooming Affairs is improving daily, and we enjoy being here.

6. Is there any advice you can share with others interested in floral design?

I always say in order to become successful in anything you do in this life, you have to use three things: your hands, your mind, and your heart. That is the formula for success.

7. Switching gears, when it’s time to grab a bite to eat, where do you like to go in the area?

There are so many places to eat within the vicinity of our store. Maison Kayser right next door, Obicà Mozzarella Bar Pizza e Cucina, and Mari Vanna. Our kids enjoy Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

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

Definitely the Flatiron Building is my favorite building to see, and Flowers By Blooming Affairs is the second.

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the neighborhood?

Looking at the Flatiron Building every morning makes me happy. It holds so much history and beauty.

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

Historical. Modern. Energetic.

Photo Credit: Flowers By Blooming Affairs

Jan 21, 2019

Flatiron Faces: Lindsey Bittner, Pastry Chef of Benno, Leonelli Taberna & Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria

Meet Lindsey Bittner, Pastry Chef at Benno, Leonelli Taberna, and Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria in the Evelyn Hotel, a 1905 Beaux Arts building located at 7 East 27th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. “The responsibility of managing three outlets,” says Bittner, “means that not every day is the same for me.” 

1. Congratulations on your triple post as Pastry Chef at Benno, Leonelli Taberna, and Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria. What does your usual day look like at the restaurant group? 

Thank you! When I work in the morning, my day starts at 5 am. I coordinate the bakery setup and oversee the production of viennoiserie (breakfast pastries), cookies, and cakes that are baked fresh every day. Once the bakery is up and running, I assist my team in producing the components for our various pastries and desserts for the restaurants. My evenings also entail production, but I am much more involved in service for Leonelli Taberna and Benno. I attend pre-service meetings for each restaurant to educate and provide an opportunity for the front of house teams to taste and discuss the desserts. Once service begins, I assist and oversee plating of our creations. The remainder of my time is spent on recipe development, mentoring my cooks, and general administrative duties.

2. You're a classically trained chef with a degree in Baking & Pastry Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and a certificate in French Pastry Arts from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in Yssingeaux, France. In addition, you have worked in award-winning restaurants, including Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, and Gramercy Tavern. Describe for us the pivotal point that led to your current career.

When I was studying at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie, I saw how far pastry could be taken not only as a career, but an art form. I became infatuated with the consistency and perfection of technique combined with the endless possibilities for creative expression.

3. What are some of your favorite dessert creations? What makes the dish so memorable?

One of my favorite creations is a recent one, which was on the opening dessert menu of Benno. It was a rosemary-infused flan served with spiced pumpkin seeds, citrus-poached cranberries, and brown butter gelato. The reason I think the dish is so memorable is because the strong savory notes balance well with the creamy sweetness of the flan, complemented by the acidy of the cranberries and candied lemon.

4. Valentine’s Day is coming up next month. Do you have any dessert recommendations for the occasion?

Dessert made for two is a nice, romantic gesture that concludes the meal with sweet intimacy.

5. Is there any advice you can share with others who are interested in the culinary arts?

Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Also, patience is key—it takes time and repetition to hone any skill.

6. Switching gears to your life outside of the pastry kitchen–how do you like to spend your free time?

I love music and film and spend my off time at home with my cat, Moses.

7. When you’re not dining in the Evelyn Hotel, where else do you like to eat in Flatiron? Do you have a go-to dish? 

I really dig Hanjan on 26th Street. I love the spicy rice cake; it has a fabulous texture!

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

Definitely check out the art installations at Madison Square Park. One of my favorites was a piece called Fata Morgana by New York-based artist Teresita Fernández. The installation consisted of mirrors cut in organic patterns suspended above the walkway that caught light and images in a way that transformed the Park.

9. What’s your favorite building or in the area? 

My favorite building in the area is the New York Life Building. My grandfather, father, and mother all worked there at different points in time; my parents met while working there. It seems providential that I would wind up working footsteps away from family history.

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

Iconic. Gastronomic. Deco.

Photo credit: Evan Sung