Danny Meyer’s New York restaurant empire is going through some major shifts.
In addition to Union Square Cafe’s chef Carmen Quagliata leaving after 15 years, a slew of other top brass at Meyer icons are leaving the company within the next month — including at Gramercy Tavern, the Modern, Maialino, and Blue Smoke.
Gramercy Tavern general manager Scott Reinhardt is leaving after 22 years, and Blue Smoke’s executive chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois is leaving his post of five years, following many more years at the company. Nick Anderer of Maialino has left after a 15-year run with USHG, as has Michaël Engelmann, the Modern’s five-year wine director.
But some new faces are around, too. USHG recently appointed a new president, a role that’s been empty since 2015. Chip Wade — who spent over a decade with the parent company of chains Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse — now joins Meyer at the top. And all-day cafe Daily Provisions has brought on a new managing director, Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, the former CEO of local nonprofit Hot Bread Kitchen. Patrick Connelly of Rider is also a new addition, joining as executive chef of Union Square’s catering arm.
In a statement sent to Eater, Meyer says he’s accustomed to people leaving his restaurants to evolve their careers elsewhere.
“Over my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with lots and lots of amazing hospitality professionals,” he says. “At some point, almost all have continued to build their careers outside of our restaurants.”
Still, it’s quite the adjustment. Meyer is now charged with pulling in a whole new roster of talent to fill the open slots. Some of the departing staffers have been critical to USHG’s growth and reputation, especially those like Reinhardt and Bourgeois, who have helped build legendary spots like Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke into what they are today.
Reinhardt’s last day with Gramercy will be June 5, after more than two decades with the quintessential American restaurant. He started his career at USHG in 1997 as a waiter and rose up the ranks over the past two decades, becoming a maître d’, manager, and assistant general manager before gaining his present title in spring 2017.
He’s moving onto Greenwich Village restaurant Loring Place, where he’ll also serve as general manager. In an email sent out to staff, he says he’s known Loring Place chef-owner Dan Kluger and his wife Hannah for many years, having worked together at USHG in the past.
“Loring Place is a 2 ½ years young restaurant that I always enjoyed dining at,” he writes. “I’m excited to be joining the team at this time, as I started at [Gramercy Tavern] 2 ½ years in.”
Bourgeois, whose last day at Blue Smoke will be Friday, May 31, is leaving to focus on food media, he says. He tells Eater he’s grateful that the barbecue restaurant gave him a platform to become an “outspoken voice for Southern food and barbecue” in NYC, and he plans to continue to fill those shoes through different media outlets like YouTube and Instagram, as well as a cookbook.
The Louisiana native started his New York career at USHG under Anderer at Maialino, and eventually moved up to the Gramercy Hotel’s rooftop events space, the Gramercy Terrace, where he worked as chef de cuisine. When he was tapped as executive chef at Blue Smoke in 2014, he was also charged with opening Meyer’s first standalone bar Porchlight. He was 29 at the time.
“Needless to say, I was taking on a lot at a young age,” he says. “That’s something that I was super overwhelmed with five years ago, but something I look back on now and see it as a blessing.”
Under his guidance, Blue Smoke evolved beyond the pan-regional barbecue originally offered. It now serves Texas-style brisket and baby back ribs alongside less traditional barbecue meats like Alabama white wings and turkey pastrami.
Meanwhile, Anderer — the longtime chef who helmed the kitchens at Maialino, Marta, and the recently shuttered Martina — has left USHG to starting something of his own. His last day was at the end of March, shortly after Martina closed, a spokesperson says.
“I’ve always aspired to open my own business, and with that goal in mind, I’ve made the difficult decision to leave the company,” Anderer tells Eater via email.
He was another mainstay figure at the company: Before opening Maialino in 2009, Anderer was the executive sous chef of Gramercy Tavern, where he worked for nearly six years under the chefs Tom Colicchio and Michael Anthony.
The Modern also recently lost a member of its team. In April, former wine director Engelmann left after five years with the restaurant. Eater has reached out to him for comment.
USHG says it’s actively looking to hire for empty roles.