August 1, 2016 |

Expo Spotlight: Opening Keynote Speaker Announced!

By Bill Oakley

Bill Oakley Group Show Director

Bill Oakley
Group Show Director

This year’s opening keynote speaker will be Gabriel Stulman, who is one of New York’s most successful and influential restaurateurs.

Gabriel was named a “40 Under 40” in 2011 by Crain’s New York Business and “Restaurateur of the Year” by Esquire magazine in 2012.

The 34-year-old Virginia native is the CEO and founder of Happy Cooking Hospitality, a group of trendy New York City restaurants that includes Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery, Fedora, Perla and Bar Sardine. By design, all five of these neighborhood restaurants are located within a few blocks of each other in the heart of Manhattan’s West Village. Gabriel runs Happy Cooking, which he calls his family of restaurants, with his wife and business partner, Gina.

Gabriel Stulman Pizza Expo 2017 Keynote Speaker and founder of NYC's Happy Cooking Hospitality

Gabriel Stulman
Pizza Expo 2017 Keynote Speaker and founder of NYC’s Happy Cooking Hospitality

His local, entrepreneurial approach and closeness to the current dining trends will inspire you as you seek to better your own business during Pizza Expo. Throughout his early years, his parents filled the house with family and friends for large meals and celebrations on a weekly basis, which is where his love for entertaining and food began. Although he made Philly cheesesteaks for Steak N’ Things in high school, his foray into the restaurant industry didn’t begin until he needed to find a way to pay for his college tuition.

While in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, he developed a passion for the hospitality industry and food as he worked almost every position in a popular local husband-and-wife-run Café Montmartre. This was a life-altering experience and it inspired him to do this for a living. During these years, he forged lifelong friendships with others in the restaurant community. Many of these friends would later join him in New York City, where he moved after graduating in 2003 with majors in history and political science.

After holding various roles at several celebrated NYC restaurants, Gabriel and Gina opened their first restaurant, Joseph Leonard, in 2009. Named after his two grandfathers, Joseph Leonard was an instant hit, beloved for its warm, welcoming atmosphere and its approachable menu. In 2010, he debuted Jeffrey’s Grocery across the street, a seafood restaurant and oyster bar named after his father. Later that year, Gabriel and his team opened their third restaurant, Fedora, a modern speakeasy. In March of 2012, Perla joined the growing family. This Italian restaurant was named after Gabriel’s grandmother and is now called Perla Café. Later that same year, he opened Chez Sarine, initially an izakaya, since transformed into a gastropub called Bar Sardine.

I think you’ll find Gabriel’s story fascinating — and with his ties to Italian cuisine and the restaurant industry — an inspiring opening act on the busy first exhibit hall day at Pizza Expo.


Best regards,

Bill Oakley
Group Show Director

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