Marketing Maestro of Myriad
Tenafly’s Tracy Nieporent muses on his career in the restaurant business
Written by Amelia Duggan
Photography by Heather Zwain
On a sunny spring afternoon, The Bergen County Bible joined Tenafly’s Tracy Nieporent, director of marketing for Myriad Restaurant Group at the company’s Tribeca Grill in New York City for a conversation about the restaurant business, hunger relief, the New York Mets and life in Bergen. A mainstay in the Myriad portfolio of restaurants, which includes Batard, Nobu Downtown (which used to be Nobu New York) and Nobu Fifty Seven, Tribeca Grill has been going strong since 1990.
Nieporent traces his passion for the restaurant business back to childhood memories with his dad, Andrew Nieporent, who did legal work for the industry and frequently took his two sons (brother Drew is creator and president of Myriad) out to dine around the city. As a kid, it was all about the diversity and theatricality of the experience, not to mention special time with the family. Drew knew as a teen that restaurants were his calling, but Tracy discovered this later after his brother opened Montrachet. Despite a successful career in advertising, Tracy was eventually smitten by the business just has his brother had been. He came on board at Myriad when the company decided to open more restaurants. Those treasured memories of bygone restaurants like Headquarters near Radio City, Mike’s Ship-A-Hoy, Ralph’s Italian, and Al Green’s luncheonette on Sixth Avenue left an indelible impression later inspired how the Nieporent business took shape.
BCB: With your restaurants consistently among the most sought-after dinner reservations in Manhattan, what is your recipe for success in creating the perfect blend of superior menu and ambience for your restaurants, giving each of them their own, distinct personality?
TN: Every restaurant has its own personality, culture and point-of-view. We’re trying to give our guests a little two-hour vacation, in restaurants that have originality.
BCB: How do you choose the chefs with whom you partner?
TN: You always look for collaborative people with a strong work ethic, personal integrity, and a culinary point-of-view.
BCB: Are there any new enterprises on the horizon? Are you testing any new concepts or considering any additional locations?
TN: Drew spearheaded 40 restaurant projects in 32 years (including many consulting projects). We’re now at the stage of life where you never say never, but we’re not looking to add on to what we currently operate.
BCB: Do you have a favorite dish on each of the menus at your restaurants?
TN: It’s like asking who your favorite child is. I personally gravitate to seafood, and all of the restaurants do it well.
BCB: When tastes can be so fickle, how do your restaurants sustain their popularity and keep menus exciting?
TN: It’s a fine balance to keep the dishes that our guests have embraced, while adding new ones that the chefs want to try. We’ve done our best when we offer menus that are accessible and not too esoteric.
BCB: Beyond your work at your restaurants, you are also very actively involved in City Harvest, a food rescue program in NYC that feeds millions of hungry New Yorkers each year. Why is this program so important to you?
TN: Hunger relief is very important to us and City Harvest does a wonderful job here in NYC. So does Table To Table in New Jersey. I’m a member of their Board and have long supported their efforts. Beyond City Harvest, we also provided meals for the relief workers during the rescue efforts on 9/11. We try to be helpful to move the needle to make good things happen.
BCB: Your son, Robert, has followed in the family footsteps, managing the fun-filled Kellogg’s NYC. How does it feel to see him succeed as the next generation of restaurateurs?
TN: I am very proud of Robert. He has a solid foundation of knowledge and the work ethic and integrity that we see as integral to success. He works for a company, Co Create that has produced the Kellogg’s collaboration, and he is destined to do great things in this business. On the New Jersey side of the river, I am also proud of my wife, Amy, who is an instructor at the Holy Name Medical Center School of Nursing, and my son, Matthew, who works at Home Depot in Nanuet.
BCB: As involved as you are in the Manhattan dining scene, you have long enjoyed exploring the restaurants in Bergen County, finding a few favorites over the years. What are some of your favorite cuisines and what restaurants do you frequent on this side of the river?
TN: My favorite restaurant in Bergen is Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant in Hackensack. They have been consistently good for many years. My wife, Amy, and I always enjoy Varka Estiatorio, and we admire what George Georgiades has done in creating Eons Greek Food For Life. I also really liked Zestt in Tenafly, and it has morphed into D’Antonio, which is also good.
BCB: In addition to your interests in the food service industry, you are an avid Mets and Jets fan. Any prediction for what’s going to happen at Citi Field this summer?
TN: I am a devout fan of both teams (and we also like the Rangers and the Knicks at MSG). I’ll be out at Citi Field twice this week, and am confident that the Mets will play in the post season. If they make it, with good pitching, championships can be won. We help operate the Porsche Grille at Citi Field, which is a great venue. I dined there recently with my friend, Ron Swoboda, who diehard baseball fans will remember from the 1969 World Championship Miracle Mets. It’s always fun when Ron is in town.
BCB: Getting back to restaurants, what do you really love about the business?
TN: I love the fact that we’re in a business that makes people happy. Dining out is one of the most meaningful things that everyone enjoys, and if our places are chosen, it is a sacred trust. When I look at our restaurants, and they’re busy, that is rewarding. You feel like a million dollars, without actually having the cash.
BCB: You feel a responsibility to keep the restaurant business thriving in New York through your involvement in NYC Restaurant Week. Why is this so important and where do you see this event heading?
TN: I have been the chairman of NYC & Company’s Restaurant Committee, administering NYC Restaurant Week, since 2004. We now have close to 400 participating restaurants serving 30 cuisines in 40 neighborhoods. It is probably one of the main reasons why the NYC Hospitality Alliance recently gave me their Big Apple Legacy Award. We have expanded the program to seven weeks of the year. It’s a chance, especially for young people, to go to a wide variety of restaurants that they might not otherwise visit. The experience makes an impression and then the diners may return in the future.
BCB: Finally, do you have a favorite perch when you dine in one of your restaurants?
TN: I always choose a spot where I can watch everything that’s going on. I love the theatrics. I like to observe guests escape and relax in our restaurants. That’s the joy of the business.