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VOL. 37 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 18, 2013

Forbes serves up honor for restaurateur brothers

By Joe Morris

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Max Goldberg

Ask Middle Tennessee foodies to list their favorite restaurants, and chances are that at least one will be owned by Strategic Hospitality.

Brothers Benjamin and Max Goldberg have launched a series of successes that includes Paradise Park, The Patterson House, Aerial and The Catbird Seat, as well as continuing to operate Lower Broad mainstay Merchants Restaurant.

And now Max Goldberg has been tapped by Forbes for its annual “30 Under 30” list in under Food and Wine.

Forbes states: “The Nashville native is slowly transforming his hometown into a dining destination with the multi-award winning chef’s tasting room, The Catbird Seat, and a kitschy honky-tonk on Broadway called Paradise Park.”

For Goldberg, being named to the “Forbes,’’ list is a nice touch, but the food’s the thing, and Nashville is the place to make it all happen.

When did you get word of the Forbes list? Did you know in advance you were to be included?

“I found out the morning the list was released. I began receiving texts and emails early that morning from family, friends and friends in the industry. It is such an honor to be included in this list.’’

What’s the “5-minute elevator speech” version of your businesses: How you got started, who’s evolved, how many there are now, that kind of thing?

“Strategic Hospitality has a simple mission statement: Positively exceed expectations in everything we do. We try to embody this in our businesses and in our personal lives.

“We currently own Paradise Park, a honky-tonk on Lower Broadway; The Patterson House, a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge specializing in hand-crafted artisan cocktails; Aerial, a rooftop private event space overlooking downtown Nashville; the longtime Nashville staple Merchants Restaurant; and a chef-run restaurant called The Catbird Seat.

“We employ more than 175 incredible people and are very thankful for the support of those who frequent our establishments. We also have a consulting aspect to our business. Most recently we partnered with Centerplate on some concession efforts at LP Field for our Tennessee Titans.’’

Thinking back on your first venture, has your business grown in the way you expected, or have you been taken by surprise by some twists and turns?

Superstar singers Taylor Swift and Ke$ha made the Forbes magazine 30 under 30 list for outstanding achievements in music and entertainment while still in their 20s.

Joining Strategic Hospitality’s Max Goldberg, 29, on the 30 under 30 list in food and wine, is 27-year-old James Peisker, the co-founder of Porter Road Butcher, with its mission to bring local farm-raised meats and products to the Nashville market.

Param Jaggi, a Vanderbilt sophomore, was recognized in the field of energy. Jaggi, recognized for the second time by the magazine and only 18, is working on a device which when installed on an exhaust system can capture energy from excess air and heat.

Ravi Gupta, 29, made the list in education as the founder of Nashville Prep, a charter school. He’s a graduated Yale University Law graduate and a campaign staffer for President Obama.

“Well, my first venture was the company’s third. My brother, Benjamin, had already opened Bar Twenty3 and City Hall, so I came on board with Paradise Park. We started Strategic Hospitality as a way to work together and create places where we would want to go. Every concept we have opened is a great representation of where we are at a point in our life, and what we find interesting at the time. If I didn’t own them, I would still want to go and patronize every business we have.

“The company has grown much faster than I expected. The accelerated growth has added different types of challenges, but we have an amazing staff and the support of a very enthusiastic city, so I feel very fortunate to be in this position.’’

Some say the economy’s better; some say that it’s still bad. You’re in the restaurant sector, which is often a barometer, so what’s your take?

“Whether the economy is up or down, I think people enjoy an affordable luxury. Maybe it’s not a vacation to the beach this year, but instead a staycation in which maybe they’ll come and have a nice dinner or cocktails at one of our establishments.

“There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Nashville, and we’ve been lucky that people from all over the country and the world are coming to visit and check out our places.

“Here at Strategic we strive to reinvest in the city, so we do our very best to use local purveyors and support those who live right here in Nashville. A good example of this is our new sandwich offerings at LP Field, which feature local ingredients, as well as our emphasis for supporting local businesses within our own concepts.’’

What are some challenges you’re looking at going into 2013, and how do you think they might be overcome?

“Growing at this pace poses a challenge because we want to make sure we don’t lose an ounce of what is special and unique about our businesses. We try to overcome this by staying very in tune with what’s going on at each place.

“Our talented staff is a huge part of our success. I believe our staff knows how much we care about them, the customer and the consistent quality of what we do. We try to lead by example and support each other.’’

Why Nashville? What made it worth getting started here, and what’s kept you here while you’ve continued to expand?

“My brother and I are Nashville guys. We grew up here, and while we each left for college, we loved the city and felt it had great potential for us. So when we decided to come back and make a go at the hospitality industry here, it was a very exciting decision for us.

“The city has been absolutely amazing, so supportive and generous, and it’s given us the platform to grow. Now there is so much attention surrounding the city, and it’s exciting because we’ve always known how great it is, and now people from all over are getting to see what we see.’’

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