MRM News Bites: Twist on ‘Country’ Club Dining, Homestyle Italian at Angeline and Nutella Cafe in Chicago

This edition of MRM New Bites includes a restaurant and entertainment destination from superstar recording artists, new destination dining from a superstar chef and superstar-level sustainability in Yellowstone. Send news items of interest to Modern Restaurant Management magazine’s Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at

FGL HOUSE Comes to Nashville

Multi-platinum recording artists Florida Georgia Line will establish their first restaurant and entertainment destination, a four-story attraction in Nashville’s SoBro district called FGL HOUSE. It is expected to open in early summer 2017 in partnership with LRC Group.

Photo by Delaney Royer

“What excites Tyler and I the most is always staying creative. We love seeing what fresh things we can come up with to take our music to a new level and turn our dreams into reality,” said Brian Kelley.

Tyler Hubbard added, “We want FGL HOUSE to be just as welcoming, fun and entertaining for our guests as if they were coming out to one of our shows – nothing but good food, good drinks and good times! We can’t wait for opening day to get here!”

Situated on 3rd Avenue South, the new venue will feature edgy live music every day – focusing specifically on today’s country trends. The kitchen will fuse unique Southern style cuisine with California flair, and bars on each floor will serve local craft beers and cocktails – many featuring the red-hot duo’s own Old Camp Whiskey.

Courtesy of FGL HOUSE

FGL HOUSE will also boast the largest “Cruise” rooftop Nashville has to offer, dedicated to an all-day and all-night party with views of the Music City skyline. Guests also have the option to step away from the hustle and bustle to relax in a classy basement-level lounge, complete with its own baby grand piano, cocktail menu inspired by ’90s pop culture and specialty martinis. A video wall will continuously showcase  content from Florida Georgia Line and other country stars – as well as sporting events – and Dee Jay Silverwill spin custom country mixes during can’t-miss Country Club Tuesdays.

Angeline Debuts in A.C.

Does the lasagna at the top of the page make your mouth water? You can thank Michael Symon, chef, restaurateur, Iron Chef and co-host on “The Chew” for that. He is bringing homestyle Italian fare to Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa with Angeline, a restaurant named for his Sicilian mother, Angel.

The menu is inspired by the food Symon grew up eating, and begins with a selection of antipasti including Mom’s meatballs, baked clams and tasting boards of salumi. Housemade pastas follow, such as linguine with clams + pancetta, cavatelli with Sunday sauce and ricotta and chitarra with anchovy and mint. Entrees include classics like shrimp scampi, eggplant parmesan and Mom’s lasagne, alongside a selection of wood-fired dishes such as brick chicken with marsala sauce and grilled strip steak with porcini crust. To finish: classic Italian-American desserts, including cannoli and Cleveland-style strawberry cassata cake. 

The cocktail program, crafted by long-time Symon collaborator and bar expert David Earle, incorporates Italian ingredients to reimagine the classics. The list includes the Manhattan Figura, a Manhattan with fig and basil, and the Russo Bianco, an Italian version of the White Russian. Angeline’s robust wine selection, displayed on a floor-to-ceiling wine wall viewable from the main dining room, is divided by country with a focus on Italian varietals.

New York-based Parts and Labor Design designed the space in collaboration with Symon’s wife and business partner Liz Symon. The handsome, rich jewel-toned restaurant was designed to recall both the nostalgic charm of Italian family gatherings and old world glamour, with a grand main dining room and distinctive spaces throughout—a stately front bar, a cozy back banquette and an intimate private dining room. A striking light fixture of brass and glass is room’s the focal point, adding to the restaurant’s many textures: mosaic tile, rich leathers and warm woods. A glass-enclosed custom salumi case offers guests a glimpse into the open kitchen.

Farm-, Lake- and Free-Range-to-Table in Yellowstone

Trout from Idaho. Bison from Wyoming and North Dakota. Beef, goat cheese, and ice cream from Montana. These and other regionally sourced food products served in the dining facilities of Yellowstone National Park are bringing local flavors to the culinary forefront of the nation’s oldest national park. As the farm-to-table food movement sweeps the country, Yellowstone is embracing it with gusto. As of 2016, a full 50 percent of the park-wide food and beverage purchases used at restaurants like the Mammoth Dining Room in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins and other park eateries managed by concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts are categorized as sustainably produced. Local and/or sustainable products also include produce, dairy, flour, cookies, teas, and lamb.

Last year the park increased its local liquor offerings from six to 19 options, which feature Wyoming Whiskey, Willie’s Montana Honey Moonshine, Montana 1889 whiskey, and Willie’s Huckleberry Sweet Cream Liqueur, among others. Yellowstone restaurants follow a simple philosophy — to provide the highest quality food with the “softest footprint” by finding products that are fresh, locally produced, organic, third-party certified and/or support sustainable farming, fishing, and business practices. Among their many other local food partners are Montana Ranch Beef, Western Buffalo, and Wolf Ridge Lamb & Wool.
Mammoth Dining Room is Xanterra’s first certified green restaurant. It received its certification from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) in 2011. In December 2016, it became the only restaurant in a national park to receive GRA’s Four Star certification, and one of only 25 restaurants nationwide.
The Green Restaurant Association is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1990 to encourage restaurants to green their operations using transparent, science-based certification standards. GRA operates in 47 states and Canada, assisting restaurants achieve sustainability in several critical areas including energy, food, water, waste, chemicals and pollution reduction, disposables and furnishings, and building materials.
Mammoth Dining Room’s  status was in part the result of accomplishments in these categories:

  • Disposables: All disposables (cups, utensils, plates, etc.) are compostable, with priority given to post-consumer recycled content.
  • Energy: All incandescent bulbs replaced with LEDs (70 percent) or high-efficiency fluorescents. Use of Energy Star-rated kitchen equipment.
  • Food: Ongoing commitment and program to increase the availability of fresh, local and sustainably produced food and beverage items on the menus.
  • Chemical and Pollution: Electric vehicle charging station made available with preferred parking location. Environmentally friendly chemicals are used throughout the operation. Use of low/no VOC carpet, flooring and materials in the building. 
  • Waste: Waste is sorted into compostable, recyclable and reusable. Waste vegetable oil is recycled to be converted to bio-diesel fuels. Items such as crayons, glass, metals, cardboard and other materials are recycled or reused. Waste is minimized through such practices as using bulk condiments and serving only draft beers.
  • Water: High efficiency/Energy Star-rated fixtures and equipment are used in bathrooms and kitchen.

While reaching 50 percent in sustainable food and beverages is great, the goal is to increase them to 70 percent by 2025.

Stengel Field Food Hall to Open in 2018

Butler Town Center will bring the nation’s food hall phenomenon to Gainesville when it debuts the Stengel Field Food Hall in late 2018. Boasting a name and architecture that pays homage to the area’s aviation history, the hall will be North Central Florida’s first chef-driven collection of national, regional and local dining options, according to developer and owner Butler Enterprises.

Butler Town Center

Located on the ground level of The Residences at Butler, Stengel Field Food Hall will be curated by  local chef and restaurant owner Bert Gill, author of “Pickled, Fried and Fresh: Bert Gill’s Southern Flavors,” the first cookbook to blend North Central Florida’s local foods with Southern cuisine.

“Butler Town Center will bring many firsts to North Central Florida: We will be the first regional shopping center in the area to add residences, and through the Stengel Field Food Hall, will debut our version of an exciting, casual dining experience that has expanded throughout gateway cities such as New York and Miami,” said Butler Enterprises President Deborah Butler. “Chef Gill’s national culinary background, commitment to responsible ingredient sourcing, and love of the Gainesville market means this fresh, new national concept will have the perfect regional translation for our area.” 

Chef Bert Gill

A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Gill will oversee the operations and the selection of a unique combination of vendors within the food hall, and open his latest creation, L’Avion, a distinctive French bistro.

“We are passionate about serving fresh, exceptional food, with as many local ingredients as possible,” Gill said. “Deborah Butler’s exciting, new urban development will be a magnet not only for a spectacular showcase of our area’s rich culinary scene, but also for a broad base of customers craving a new experience. For foodies and shoppers alike, this destination will be the centerpiece of Gainesville.”

The 13,000-square-foot Stengel Field Food Hall’s design take a page from its location’s history with a Pitt’s Special airplane suspended from the ceiling, amid other aeronautical elements from the 1940s and ’50s. Stengel Field served as Gainesville’s first school of aviation, founded by local aviation pioneer Carl Stengel. There, early aeronautical designer Curtis Pitts built a lightweight, agile Pitts Special, brought to fame by Betty Skelton, the most famous female aerobatic flying champion of her time, with her plane “Lil’ Stinker,” still on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Stengel Field Food Hall

“Stengel Field Food Hall will be an exemplary combination of the old and the new, with our design reflecting Gainesville’s storied past, while Chef Gill brings our residents and guests the best of contemporary cuisine,” said Deborah Butler, whose father Clark acquired the airfield in the 1970s. “This is an exciting time for Gainesville and North Central Florida.”

The space will house between 11 and 15 vendors, including new food concepts, a craft beer tap room and additional kiosks for fresh flowers, local fruits and vegetables. Butler Town Center will be a Main Street-style, mixed-use project including more than 200 residences, a collection of new-to-market shops, boutiques and entertainment including a 14-screen Regal Cinema, withfood offerings including P.F. Chang’s, Stengel Field Food Hall and the area’s first Whole Foods Market.

Talent Acquisition Firm Hits Milestone

Patrice & Associates, the only national talent acquisition firm that specializes in the hospitality industry, recently achieved this growth milestone when it awarded a franchise to entrepreneur Margo Kornfeld of New York City. The company has also recently launched a major franchise expansion into Canada and expects to sign 60 new franchise agreements this year.

This comes on the heels of a 2016 that saw growth projections exceeded with 50 single-unit franchise agreements awarded and more than a dozen regional developer contracts signed. This resulted in Patrice & Associates tripling its revenue from 2015 to 2016.

“Restaurants across the nation are seeing a rise in same store sales, new locations and job opportunities, which bodes well for our franchisees – when the restaurant industry grows we grow,” said Patrice Rice, founder of Patrice & Associates. “Our success is cyclical. As we continue adding national partnerships with hotel and restaurant brands, it benefits our franchisees at a local level. When the company sees significant growth like we did in 2016, so do our franchisees. When our franchisees see growth, national restaurant chains notice and want to work with the best. Our cycle of excellence is already hard at work for 2017.”

Every Patrice & Associates franchisee starts his or her entrepreneurial journey with built in clients, that allow for a faster ramp up. Because the brand is nearly three decades old and has built an impressive list of national clients in the restaurant and hotel industries including Buffalo Wild Wings, Panera, Arby’s and HMSHost, franchisees across the nation have immediate clients. Additionally, while each franchisee has his or her own mapped-out territory, they also have the ability to work the entire country.

“This business model was created to ensure each franchisee finds quick and sustainable success, all while helping others find better careers,” said Chief Operating Officer, Brian Miller.

Rice founded Patrice & Associates in 1989 and began franchising the business in 2010. The franchise focuses on staffing management positions in restaurants, hotels and casinos.

Nutella Cafe Opens in Chicago

Ferrero, the makers of Nutella®, is opening heir first owned and operated restaurant, the Nutella Cafe on May 31. Whether you’re grabbing coffee on the way to work or looking for a neighborhood lunch spot, the new Nutella Cafe will offer an array of all-day dishes and to-go options designed to take your taste experience to new and delicious heights, all with a side of happy.

The permanent cafe is the first restaurant owned and operated by Ferrero, promising an authentic Nutella experience complete with a specially curated menu. Exclusive menu items include warm, grilled baguettes with Nutella, fresh-roasted hazelnut and blueberry granola with yogurt and Nutella, and Italian specialties like “Panzanella” fruit salad, and Gelato Affogato, a tasty dollop of Fior di Latte topped with Nutella. There will also be a number of dishes available without the famous hazelnut spread, including a wide selection of savory dishes such as paninis, salads and other unique specialties.

“We wanted to create a world of Nutella for our fans that could truly capture the essence of the brand – not just in the dishes that will be served, but in the full experience from the moment you step into the space.” said Noah Szporn, Head of Marketing Nutella North America. “The Nutella Cafe offers something for everybody, and we encourage everyone to come in and try a dish or snack. We hope Nutella enthusiasts, Chicagoans and visitors enjoy the cafe as much as we enjoyed creating it.”  

Drew Named Executive Chef at Aquarius

The newly renovated Dream Inn, Santa Cruz’s legendary, beachfront hotel now managed by Woodside Hotels, appointed Ken Drew to executive chef at the property’s waterfront restaurant, Aquarius.  With nearly 32 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industries Drew will be guiding menu development for the restaurant and hotel as well as oversee all culinary operations including the hotel’s in-room dining and banquet programs.

Drew’s culinary career was established in Southern California where he gained experience under European-trained certified Executive Chefs Bob Brody and Jay Pastoral.  From there he took the position of restaurant chef at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, and then served as banquet chef for the world-famous Hotel Del Coronado.  Most recently, Drew served as executive chef for Marriott La Jolla.

“I have been extremely fortunate to work at some of California’s most desirable coastal destinations and making the decision to come to Aquarius felt like a natural extension to my culinary experience,” said Drew. “This region lends a vast canvas for creativity when it comes to cuisine and I am excited to work with my new team to come up with authentic dishes inspired by the surrounding area.”

Dream Inn

Drew’s goal at Aquarius is to create and serve simple dishes that showcase the bounty of California’s Central Coast – from fresh seafood caught and harvested in the Monterey Bay to organic produce and sustainable meats from nearby farms and purveyors.  Since onboarding as executive chef, Drew has reinvented the restaurant’s seafood-centric menu and added some spring-inspired dishes such as Ahi, Shrimp and Red Snapper Seafood Roll; Baby Kale Salad with Salmon; and Jumbo Shrimp and Angel Hair Pomodoro.

 “We are thrilled to welcome Chef Drew to our team,” said Darren Pound, general manager of Dream Inn. “Beyond Chef Drew’s culinary talent, he has a wealth of experience in executing large banquets and events, something we hope to increase here at the property. We know chef will bring forth a lot of fresh and creative ideas and we are excited to instill them into the overall food and beverage program for Aquarius and the Dream Inn.”

Aquarius offers a modern and sophisticated take on the American Bistro, specializing in sustainable seafood, top-quality produce and ingredients from local purveyors.  Aquarius features grand wrap-around windows that lend a breezy, open-air feel to the restaurant and offer big-sky vistas of the sun and clouds by day, and the moon and stars in the evening.  A canopy of handmade surfboards and teardrop-shaped latticework lamps hangs languidly from above, while smooth, pebbled flooring in the lounge area transitions to gray slate in the restaurant.  Guests can enjoy a drink at the Jack O’Neil Lounge, lined with historical photographs and personal memorabilia of the Santa Cruz neighbor, legendary surfer, inventor and marine advocate, Jack O’Neill.  The bar at Jack O’Neill Lounge and small outdoor patio provide a convivial setting for enjoying a glass of wine from Aquarius’s extensive wine list, highlighting wines predominately.

Hakkasan Adds Kopera

Hakkasan Group has strengthened its executive team with the appointment of Gert F. Kopera as Executive Vice President, Global Restaurants.

Gert Kopera

Having worked in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, Kopera brings a wealth of global experience to Hakkasan Group where he will oversee the company’s portfolio of restaurants and aggressive global expansion. Kopera joins Hakkasan Group from his position as Chief Operating Officer at D.ream. Previously, Kopera has worked in senior positions with some of the world’s leading hotel companies including Jumeirah Group and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts where he was Vice President, Food & Beverage for seven years.

In this role, Kopera will lead the development of restaurants and bars at new venues including forthcoming openings in Hawaii, Mexico, Bali, Jakarta and Saudi Arabia. In addition, he manages the all operating entities around the world through his highly talented team.

Gert Kopera commented, “I am very excited to join Hakkasan Group and to share my drive and passion for innovative and successful restaurants and bars with the team. I have long admired Hakkasan Group and followed its rapid expansion since it opened its first restaurant in London. As we continue to expand our reach and open creative venues around the globe, we drive to strengthen the position of Hakkasan Group as one of the most imaginative and dynamic hospitality companies.”

Hakkasan Group is a worldwide hospitality company with establishments across North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa. Its namesake is taken from its Michelin star restaurant. Its restaurant portfolio includes Hakkasan, with 11 locations worldwide, Ling Ling, Yauatcha, HKK, Sake no Hana, Herringbone, Searsucker and Ivory on Sunset. Under the nightlife/daylife umbrella of brands are Hakkasan Nightclub, Wet Republic, OMNIA and JEWEL Nightclub. Hakkasan Group is fully owned by Alliance International Investments LLC, an investment company based out of Abu Dhabi.

Danny’s Donuts
Riding the success of Trejo’s Tacos, Trejo’s Truck, and Trejo’s Cantina – all launched within the past year – comes word that Danny Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts has soft opened at the corner of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood in the former Donut Time space, the legendary hangout memorialized in the 2015 Sundance movie, Tangerine. 
“I couldn’t have imagined,” said Trejo. “Coming from Pacoima, success as an actor and now; not only to make my mother’s dream of owning a restaurant come true, but to have an entire second career! Two restaurants, a taco truck, and coffee and donuts, it’s truly a blessing.” 
And like his other brands, Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts will offer chef driven donuts made from only the best local ingredients and presented with a Mexican flair. Horchata donuts, Tequila-Lime donuts, Mexican Hot Chocolate donuts, and Tres Leches donuts will take their place alongside such staples as Plain, Glazed, Cinnamon Crumb, Vegan, and Churros. There’s even a donut in the shape of a Machete one of Trejo’s favorite movie props. The “Nacho” donut is a savory donut that includes Jalapenos and Cheddar Cheese. Donut names include “Margarita”, “Low Rider”, “Gringo”, “Piñata Cake”, “Three Amigos”, “Pina Fritter”, “O.G”, “Maple Pig”, “Vegan Banana Cake” and “Chocolate Crumb.”
The coffee roasted in Los Angeles for Trejo’s own special blend will headline an array of other drinks, hot and iced, including espressos, lattes and Caffe con leche.
The Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts pastry chef is Dianne Crame. Dianne began her pastry career in 2010 at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood and worked at various locations throughout Los Angeles such as The Bazaar, Cookbook and Patina. Continuing Trejo’s support of local artists Man One was selected to create two original murals outside of the building.  
Idan Adds Baking Mixes to the Mix

Idan  launched its Bain-Marie Baking Mix, providing a high quality and high taste ‘just-add-water’ baking solution for foodservice providers. The Bain-Marie Baking Mixes can be used as a base, with the option to add toppings to produce a delectable baked good that’s delicious and custom-made for each client. Idan offers a full line of both classic and premium baking mixes specifically for the foodservice industry.

“Following the extraordinary growth of our signature Texas Fried Chicken Breading, Idan is thrilled to announce our entrance into the baking industry,” said Giorgio Nadi, CEO of Idan. “Our primary focus with the launch of the Bain-Marie Baking Mixes is to mimic and exceed the success of our fried chicken breading. Ultimately, our goal is to be the number one provider of breading, seasoning and baking mixes amongst the foodservice industry, and I’m happy to say we are well on our way. Idan’s key differentiator is that we have the capabilities to customize unique flavors and products depending on our customers’ needs. It’s Idan’s mission to add unique value to our customers by streamlining a product to make their brands’ identity consistent throughout and for that we are hugely successful—now offering our products in over 1000 restaurants nationwide.”

Chef Works Debuts Urban Collection Expansion

Chef Works debuts  the expansion of their Urban Collection™, a fashion-forward line of apparel and accessories.

Chef Works debuted the  Urban Collection in 2013. With small-batch additions released each year, 2017 marks the largest product expansion of the Urban Collection, with nearly 250 new products set to debut at the National Restaurant Association Show. While chefs and kitchen staff have been well represented in recent years, designers chose to focus on front-of-house staff this year, who have previously been relegated to ill-fitting shapes, drab colors, and limited options. New products include slim-fit shirts, shortened aprons, and fashion-forward pants, creating a trend-setting wardrobe for culinarians across multiple fields.

Giving chefs the freedom to express themselves in the kitchen with a uniform choice that matches their personality, Chef Works is rolling out the Berkeley Apron collection, a fully customizable apron that includes snap on suspenders in a range of on-trend colors and patterns. This innovative design removes the traditional neck strap in favor of a cross back strap, redistributing weight and increasing comfort, workability and longevity. Chef Works continues to push the boundaries in wardrobe development, launching ten new coat styles in addition to the new aprons and work wear that expands upon and introduces new colors and fits into their already substantial lineup.

Southern Brunch in Brooklyn

Diners won’t have to travel farther south than Brooklyn to enjoy great southern brunch fare, thanks to consulting Chef Rob Newton of Hilton Brooklyn New York’s Black Walnut Restaurant. The new brunch launched on Saturday, May 6.

Black Walnut

The brunch reflects Chef Newton’s interpretations of the diverse cuisines of the American South and Asia. His roots in Arkansas and years travelling across Asia find expression in such dishes as Country Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash, Fried Chicken Po’boy and Shrimp Roll.

“The early popularity of Black Walnut Restaurant and Bar has encouraged us to step up our food and beverage program at Hilton Brooklyn New York,” said General Manager Joe Rosanio.  “We are very fortunate to have an exceptionally talented culinary team that includes, in addition to Chef Newton, Executive Chef Tony Tardio Jr. and Pastry Chef Steven Lee. We will continue to find ways to inspire our guests and neighbors to visit Black Walnut Restaurant and Bar.”