Source: Total Food Service
It may not have been the most direct or routine way to start a career. But for Bill Rosenberg, executive chef at NoMa Social, it’s led only to success.
Starting out cooking with his grandma at 14, then jumping into the business, then out again to the Culinary Institute, where he received a good, basic foundation, then back to being a chef at some of Manhattan’s greatest restaurants, Rosenberg feels he’s now right where he should be.Starting out cooking with his grandma at 14, then jumping into the business, then out again to the Culinary Institute, where he received a good, basic foundation, then back to being a chef at some of Manhattan’s greatest restaurants, Rosenberg feels he’s now right where he should be, running a restaurant that has combined great food with celebrities and the Westchester community, all coming together to celebrate experiences that have splashed NoMa Social across the front pages of magazines and newspapers.
Why did you decide to go back to school when you had already been out working in the restaurant world?
I was everybody-in-the-world’s sous chef and couldn’t break that ceiling to executive chef. I figured I’d go to school and get that diploma, which I did. But then everybody figured I was just out of school. When I was applying for chef jobs, they’d look at my resume and say, ‘oh you just graduated from school,’ they saw me as a newbie. But it was a great experience. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.
What did you do next?
I went right down to the city and began working at a lot of high-end places, The Trojan, The Sign of the Dove. I really loved the city. It’s a different energy altogether, a good place to work. It’s full of hard knocks and ups and downs.
How did you wind up in Westchester?
My wife was tired of driving me back and forth to the city, so I ended up working in Westchester, at Two Moons in Port Chester. A beautiful commute! We got some really great reviews. I was with that owner for 16 years. Then he opened in Greenwich, a place called Dome, so we moved up there and started Barcelona Wine Bar. I did all their menus and they’re still using them today. Then we opened up F.I.S.H., a popular sea food restaurant, in Port Chester.
What came next?
I wanted to grow a little more so I went to Barcelona Wine Bar, just me and the two owners, at the time. I worked for four years, and it was a great experience. Those guys really know the business. They’re young, they’re energetic. We were really trying to crank out the best possible food we could, using the best possible ingredients, sourcing different things from all over the world. After we closed F.I.S.H., I went to Greenwich and Stamford for a while. Then I moved down here and created NoMa Social at the Radisson in New Rochelle.
What does NoMa stand for?
North of Manhattan!
What kind of food do you serve there?
We’re doing a tapas kind of scenario. We try to keep it fun and energetic. This way people can be social and eat and have fun and not be tied to one specific entrée. It’s clubby, it’s a diverse crowd. A lot of people stay at the hotel, have their wedding at the beach club and then come back here to have the party on the weekend.
What does it take to be successful with a suburban restaurant? How does it differ from New York?
Even more so than in the city, where people walk in off the streets, here you have to be honest to the customer and provide value. You have to want people to come to your place, and be hospitable. A lot of people lose that we’re in the hospitality business.
We try to give people a city-like feel, the vibe of a social environment. The rooms are a large space, with a lounge-y type of seating, couches, like in a living room, that kind of experience. You can get full service in any of those areas.
Tell me about the menu.
We wanted to have a business where people come more than once a week, so we have a wide selection, from charcuterie to foie gras, all walks. For people in the hotel we have to have more variety than most.
Who makes up your clientele, mostly hotel guests or locals, too?
Originally it was almost all hotel guests. Then we tried to spread our wings a little and now we see it flipping. We’re getting more of the bedroom community coming to us.
How do you work with your staff?
We try to corral the staff in a family environment. We want to accommodate people’s schedules. They do have a life outside the restaurant and we respect that. We try to support birthdays, social events, that kind of thing.
Who are your suppliers?
We try to balance everybody off to get the best possible price. Our meat guy was a student with me at the Culinary Institute and we worked at Two Moons together, so he knows what I like. On produce I use everyone -- Baldor, Sierra, sometimes Sysco. I do try to shy away from mom-and-pops.
How did you find the kitchen at the hotel?
OMG, the kitchen was terrible. The oven didn’t work, the stove didn’t work. We inherited a lot of problems. Remember, the hotel’s been here 30 years. But the owner was nice enough to build me out a new kitchen, a new line of appliances.
There are specific features on the menu that Montague helped us accomplish – especially one of its griddles. A lot of our items come off there, and we can use it as a sauté pan. With any kind of volume, it really comes in handy.
What about marketing? I understand you are doing some very unusual things.
We’ve gotten so much press. We do a Food Perspective, a Weekly Perspective. We’ve brought in so many celebrities that we’ve been able to switch from an advertising angle to a press angle. Stories about us instead of ads. We’ve saved a bundle! But it’s been so much fun. Last year we started our summer bash, headlined by 20-25 different celebrities from the music industry, reality stars, Patty Stanger of the Millionaire Matchmatcher, cast members from Bravo shows. Two hundred people came out and we had coverage from every outlet we could have asked for. Tamra Barney from the Real Housewives of Orange County had her bachelorette party here.
In June we’re having our 2nd anniversary party, and we’re going to take the stuffiness out of wine tasting, some fun wines paired with certain tapas. It’s just been consistent every single month, something new comes out or we put together a special event.
It’s an unusual approach – we look at the community at the same time as being a restaurant. We’re in the business of meals but we’re also in the business of creating a community, a place for everyone.