As CEO of widely acclaimed hospitality company BR Guest, James Gersten certainly knows a thing or two about fine dining.
Having worked under the tutelage of the best in the biz, from Smith & Wollensky’s Alan Stillman to renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Gersten’s success in the industry has earned him great respect amongst veteran restaurateurs around the globe. These days, Gersten spends much of his time analyzing service and attending tastings at his growing portfolio of restaurants—Dos Caminos, Blue Fin, Strip House and Blue Water Grill, to name a few. In fact, you could say that the corporate wiz had the makings of a mini mogul in him from an early age.
“My mother did a lot of things very well, but cooking was not one of them,” says Gersten. “We were out to eat quite a bit, and I was always fascinated with restaurants and cooking.”
Gersten, a self-proclaimed social director with a knack for entertaining, got his first big break into the hospitality industry after being hired by Myriad Restaurant Group’s Drew Nieporent as a management trainee. He soon ascended the ranks with senior roles at Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group and Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide before landing the gig as CEO for BR Guest in December 2013. Since then, Gersten has been focused on providing a transporting experience for patrons through food, service, music and lighting.
“People go out and they are there to be entertained; they want their senses to be immersed, they want to have fun, they want to feel sexy, they want to feel a sense of opportunity and a sense of optimism,” says Gersten. “If they want to ruminate and be alone, they stay home.”
Gersten credits his success to good mentorship and a deep passion for his profession. Under his lead, the future of BR Guest continues to be bright; he thinks this year will be a game changer for the company, which has announced a new flagship for Dos Caminos in spring 2015 and a revamp of Blue Fin by summer 2015.
“I love to eat, l love to cook, I love to drink and I love to entertain people,” Gersten says. “I don’t think there is anything quite as satisfying as entertaining friends and family, providing a place for them and having a good time.”