Penny & peter Glazier

Penny & peter Glazier

Richard L. Papiernik

As partners of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House in NY, the ball is in this couple’s court

Some favorable media events take months of planning. Others just happen. And many of those events that seem so spontaneous have come about because somewhere along the line the right choices have been made.

Peter and Penny Glazier, a Tracy-Hepburn-like husband-and-wife partnership that runs the Glazier Group of three restaurants and a catering facility, have made a lot of smart choices doing business in Manhattan’s highly competitive restaurant scene.

The value of those choices and the publicity they can generate was evident earlier this year when basketball’s great player, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, announced his retirement.

Suddenly, the attention of the New York media, with videocams, photographers and reporters turned to the Glazier Group’s newest restaurant, Michael Jordan’s The Steak House at Grand Central Station. There was Penny Glazier in front of the cameras, talking to reporters about “the legend” of Michael Jordan, who just happened to be a partner with the Glaziers in Manhattan’s new “in” steak house, which opened last summer.

The much-sought-after high-profile location on the mezzanine overlooking the Grand Concourse has an airiness that soars high up to the terminal’s domed cathedral ceilings from the unique ambience of the 20th Century Limited setting that recalls that train’s travel between New York and Chicago.

Though it has a small gift shop with Jordan memorabilia and items that range from a few dollars to big-ticket, autographed basketballs that sell for $1,500, it’s the station location and the understated David Rockwell design, and yes, the great steaks and mezzanine bar, that have become the draw.

“The Glaziers have a reputation for knowing what they are doing as upscale operators in New York, and they have a great track record for making the right choices,” says Fred Sampson, executive director of the New York State Restaurant Association. “That’s important in this business where the wrong choice in any one of a number of things can really hurt you.

“The association with Jordan,” Sampson continues, “says a lot about how the Glaziers are perceived. The Jordan name carries quality with it, and his organization makes sure that any association brings that same kind of quality. He’s not a guy who goes around and lets you use his name for 500 bucks.”

Though details of the Jordan-Glazier financial arrangements are not yet available, the sales from the Grand Central location are expected to gross well into eight figures.

And though it is designed to be a fun place, it is serious business on both sides of the Glazier-Jordan table.

“We were looking as a group to target the New York market, which we know has very discriminating food tastes,” says David Bauman, vice president and general counsel for Jump Higher LLC, a new corporation formed to oversee Jordan’s restaurant interests.

“The Glazier Group came highly recommended, and so we decided to look at the restaurants,” he recalls. “So we met with them at the Monkey Bar and then went on to Tapika and were impressed by the high level of service and excellent food at the Glazier restaurants. It just seemed like the right match.”

Jordan’s retirement from basketball will not affect the restaurant, says Bauman, who notes, “Nothing will change; the status quo remains.”

Bauman, who works out of Washington, D.C., where both Jump Higher and Falk Associates Management Enterprises, or FAME, the umbrella business management group for Jordan, are located, obviously likes the status quo.

“I’ve been to the restaurant at least 20 times since it opened,” he says. “I’ve taken family, friends, business partners, and they all think the place and the food is just unbelievable.”

When pressed to reveal any problems that he found in putting the deal together or the operation since, Bauman recalls, “The only problems we bad were in trying to figure out when we would open and with a 125-year old building to work with, that’s not the easiest thing to do.”

The contract with Jordan does not tie the basketball great into any mandated appearances, says Bauman, but “Michael has promised to get here whenever he can, and I know he really likes the restaurant.”

But star quality at the Glazier group is not confined to marquee sports and entertainment celebrities.

Here’s how Peter, formerly an investment banker and managing director of real estate for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, lists his prime ingredients for operating a successful restaurant:

“Hire the best from the top down, provide a carefully thought-out and uniquely designed environment, insist on absolute quality from your suppliers, management and everyone in services, and go with a star chef”

So far, the organization includes three chefs of star quality. Two of them are working on running the kitchens at existing restaurants. Another one is working in the wings, helping to develop a new French restaurant expected to open in mid-1999 on 44th Street.

Monkey Bar executive chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, born in Wallsee, Austria, who most recently had been chef de cuisine with David Bouley, joined the Glazier Group in the fall of 1997. Gutenbrunner has won much acclaim from reviewers for his preparation of seafood dishes, duck and a specialty chestnut soup.

David Walzog joined the organization as executive chef at Tapika in the fall of 1995 and added similar duties last summer at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House. A native of Baltimore, he started his career at Lola in New York, worked with Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar and Grill and at Mark Miller’s Red Sage in Washington. He came back to New York as executive chef at Arizona 206 before joining the Glaziers. Critical acclaim has recognized Walzog as “the star” among Manhattan chefs working with a Mexican-Southwestern menu. His wide-ranging expertise, the Glaziers say, is invaluable in creating “a true steak house that is more than a steak house.”

The latest chef joining the organization last year is Troy Dupuy, who was executive sous chef working with chef de cuisine Gray Kunz at Lespinasse in New York and most recently as chef de cuisine at Lespinasse in Washington.

I met with Peter and Penny in an open-ended discussion and what I found was that our philosophy of running restaurants was so similar,” Dupuy said. “It’s a goal-oriented philosophy but there’s also a tremendous sense of loyalty and a compassion for the people and the business. That’s critical.

“They want to move ahead but they also believe in getting the most for the dollar. When you open a restaurant, you want to do the big things once, not go back and do something over again. That’s why I’m here now. We won’t open for months but we want to get it right now. That’s important and that’s a big part of what it takes to be successful.”

Another big part says Penny Glazier is the ability that she and Peter have to “work together, to understand each other and to have fun.”

Here’s how they met back in 1970: Penny was with some friends eating lunch at an East Side cafe with sidewalk dining. She saw a man walking a big dog heading in her direction. It was a Great Dane.

As the dog was passing buy, with its head at table top level, the hamburger Penny had on her plate suddenly disappeared.

“The dog just took one gulp and my hamburger was gone,” Penny recalls. Then the man approached. It was Peter apologetically offering to buy her another hamburger.

They’ve been married for 28 years.

Says Peter, kiddingly: “Before I got into the restaurant business, I thought going out to eat meant McDonald’s.”

She kids back: “That was his fine dining experience.”

Peter Glazier says that a few years back he had no desire to run restaurants. While he was at DLJ’s investment banking division in the early 1980s he was appointed a receiver in a bankruptcy case involving Gianni’s, an Italian concept restaurant at New York’s South Street Seaport.

“That was my first experience with running restaurants and what’s scary is we made money at it,” he exclaims. In the long run, however, Gianni’s didn’t work Out. Neither did an adjacent seafood restaurant but the Seaport location was converted into another concept, Bridgewaters, a full-service catering and special event facility.

Penny Glazier came into the business in 1990 through Bridgewaters, where she was able to develop and expand the party and special-events business.

By 1994, when a flagging Monkey Bar at the Hotel Elysee was acquired, Penny was a full-time partner working with Peter and David Rockwell, to restore the restaurant.

Tapika soon followed, and, last summer, Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse N.Y.C. opened in the renovated Grand Central Station.

With one new restaurant less than a year old and another one set for opening this year, the Glaziers were asked whether a one-restaurant-a-year pattern is being set.

“Basically, there are just a few general principles we operate under,” Peter Glazier says. “One is that you never string the restaurant lines of communication out so that you can’t communicate on a daily basis. The other is … to go out and get the best chefs that money can buy.”

Name: Peter Glazier, Penny Glazier

Title: principals

Concepts/Location: The Glazier Group, based in New York, operators of Monkey Bar, Michael Jordan’s. The Steak House N.Y.C., Tapika and Bridgewaters, a full-service catering facility.


Penny: University of West Virginia

Peter: University of Vermont

Career highlights:

Penny: “The opening of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House after a long, tedious selection process was just thrilling.”

Peter: “About 15 or 16 years ago, I was able to put together a group of DLJ partners to buy the City Line Marriott in Bala Cynwyd, right outside of Philadelphia. It was the first time I realized I had the ability to put such deals together.”

Professional recognitions:

Tapika: Executive chef David Walzog has presented at The James Beard House and is a three-time nominee for the James Beard/ Perrier-Jouet Rising Star Chef award.

Monkey Bar: Kurt Gutenbrunner, former Bouley chef de cuisine, presides at this mid-town catery that was rated as the No. 1 bar in New York in Gourmet magazines 1998 readers poll.

Profound career inspirations:

Peter: “When I was with Donaldson, Lulkin & Jenrette we were doing real-estate deals and working with the MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur, who was a real-estate and insurance billionaire, supposedly had said: ‘Rich or poor, it’s better to have money.”

Biggest unrealized aspiration:

Penny: “We have to look forward to… going into the year 2000… with the understanding that we have to be in the forefront of new frontiers in the hospitality business.

Peter: “I always wanted to retire all 55.1 guess I blew that.”

Personal favorite feel-good meal or snack:

Penny: chicken or Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Brownies ice cream

Peter: frozen Mallomars

Date and place of birth; current residence:

Penny: Feb 10, 1945, Freeport N.Y.

Peter: May 28, 1943, Boston, New York City

Family Status: married with one son

Favorite Leisure activity: reading, boating, massages

COPYRIGHT 1999 Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group