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Two up-and-coming hospitality stars eat their way through NYC’s hottest restaurants with Avero

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Avero's NYC Restaurant Education Experience tour scholarship winners with their mentors.

August is one of our favorite times of year here at Avero headquarters in NYC. The Union Square Greenmarket is in full bloom, restaurant patios are peaking, and one of our favorite annual events comes to fruition—the Avero NYC Restaurant Education Experience. Every year, Avero partners with the Epicurean Charitable Foundation (ECF) and the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) to award two scholarships to two gifted students/graduates in the hospitality industry with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes immersion into the New York City restaurant scene.

Scholarship winners and their industry mentors fly to the city and embark on a four-day journey experiencing some of the city’s most progressive dining trends and meeting prominent chefs, managers, and restaurateurs. In a whirlwind of stops in kitchens, bars, back offices, and dining rooms, the winners and their mentors get a peek behind the curtain to see what it takes to run a busy, high-profile restaurant—and get a taste of what’s on the menu.

Milk welcome bags Cook Book Participants received surprise gifts in their hotel rooms each night with details about the next day's adventures. Pictured on the left: a welcome bag with goodies from Milk Bar; on the right: a Red Rooster Harlem cookbook. 

A shared mission for hospitality students

Helping students and recent graduates discover and take advantage of new trends and opportunities in hospitality is part of the mission of both the ECF and C-CAP, a sentiment wholeheartedly shared by Avero and the restaurants co-hosting the tour. The Avero Restaurant Education Experience tour is the culmination of that shared mission. Putting the tour together takes a lot of cooperation between Avero, ECF, C-CAP, and the sponsoring chefs and restauranteurs. But the work pales in comparison to the reward of seeing young up-and-coming students broadening their experience and diving into hospitality with such enthusiasm. The amazing folks at Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Vaucluse, Public Kitchen, Upland, and Red Rooster in NYC graciously donate their time to share their experiences with the students and their mentors, and really make the tour a special experience.

Image from iOS (10)Lauren DeSteno, Corporate Executive Chef at Altamarea Group gives the group a tour of the kitchen at Vaucluse.

Avero CEO, Doug Hsieh, said, “Our hope is that providing this life-long learning experience will serve as inspiration to these professionals throughout their entire hospitality career.” And inspiration was in no short order on the tour this year.

Brilliant culinary dishes are often blend tried-and-true traditional recipes with new flavors and fresh approaches. The best, most beloved restaurants borrow operational best practices from other successful operations and put their own twist on them to create something unique and memorable that captures customers’ attention and their loyalty. What better venue to enrich the experiences of a budding chef or restaurateur and elevate their work than the thriving hospitality-hotbed of New York City?

Students and mentors tour NYC’s culinary hot spots

Image from iOS (6)The group stops at Red Rooster Harlem for another delicious meal on the tour.

This year’s ECF scholarship winner, Anna Tymoshevska, a University of Nevada Las Vegas senior, and ECF President, Travis Lunn, MGM Grand GM and Senior Vice President of Operations joined us from Las Vegas. Like Anna, Travis also attended the UNLV hotel management program and was happy to join the tour when Anna’s ECF mentor, Chris Bond, was unable to attend due to a schedule conflict. Travis said he lucked out by being the stand-in mentor chosen to accompany Anna to the NYC restaurant tour.

“It was truly a privilege to go into such a dynamic city with such incredible restaurants. The tour is far beyond a who’s who of establishments and chefs. It was a wonderful opportunity for students to ask questions of fantastically talented people and find out how they started their careers, what excites them, and how they’re moving the industry forward. It was really exciting to see,” Travis said.

C-CAP’s scholarship winner, Dan Castro, a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate and Uchiko sushi chef-in-training, and his mentor, Chef de Cuisine at Loro, John Gross, joined Avero in New York from Texas. Dan won a scholarship to the CIA program, graduated in 2013, and began training with Chef John at Uchiko. Chef John has since moved on to develop the Hai Hospitality group’s new concept, Loro, in Austin, Texas.

One of the highlights of the trip for Dan was meeting so many individuals who are also getting started in the hospitality industry. In addition to meeting Anna, Dan enjoyed talking with some of the employees jump-starting their hospitality careers by working at Avero through the Avero Management Program for recent college graduates. Daniel said, “I strongly believe in the power of networking—we’re always one person away from discovering new opportunities.”

 small avero imageBreakfast with the group at Maialino. Pictured, from left, scholarship recipient Anna Tymoshevska, Mentor and MGM Grand SVP of Operations, Travis Lunn, Peter Storer, Avero VP of Client Ops and Enterprise, Dough Hsieh, Avero CEO, John Gross, mentor and Loro Chef de Cuisine, scholarship recipient, Dan Castro, Avero Senior Marketing Manager, Justin Ulrich.

Food, glorious food!

Much like restaurant operations, the tour isn’t just about the food. But great food always finds a way to take center stage. Eating so much food over the course of the tour was a delicious gastronomical challenge that put even the heartiest eaters to the test. Travis recalled the group declining desert on many occasions, feeling stuffed to the brim from the day’s tastings. And yet the staff at every establishment brought out several beautiful deserts, like these. Who could resist?

 Daniel4 (3)Deserts at Grammercy Tavern. Photo by Dan Castro.

Dan captured photos of some of his favorite dishes as they toured restaurants non-stop for three days. We’re sharing some of them here with his permission. You can also check out his Instagram manila_ice and find them on Avero’s Instagram page, Avero_eats_and_tweets.

 Daniel (2)Chips and Dip at Ferris. Photo by Dan Castro.

Avero Senior Marketing Manager, Justin Ulrich says the flavor of these giant shaved radishes and chicken liver mousse was addicting. “I couldn’t stop eating!”

 Deviled eggs (2)Deviled Eggs at Red Rooster. Photo by Dan Castro.

 Daniel2 (2)Iberico Katsu at Ferris. Photo by Dan Castro.

Next to the Ricotta Gnocchi he enjoyed at Union Square Café, the Iberico Katsu at Ferris was one of Travis’ favorite bites during his visit to NYC.

Until next year

Saying goodbye is always hard. But we’re taking comfort in two things: watching Anna and Dan as they go forward in their careers and accomplish great things in the food and beverage industry; and meeting fresh faces at the tour in August 2019. Will you be the next scholarship winner or mentor? You can get involved with ECF and C-CAP and their many charity events and programs through their respective websites. Know an upcoming graduate interested in working at Avero with the Avero Management Program? Contact us!

Kim Hardy

Kim Hardy