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Thursday, May 21, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Oscar Henquet, General Manager, Rouge Tomate New York

Oscar Henquet brings over twenty years in the hospitality industry to his position as General Manager of Rouge Tomate New York. His passion for personalized service will be evident through his energetic presence on the floor and his diverse and experienced team.

From the age of ten, Oscar worked odd jobs at his family’s hotels in The Netherlands, including washing cars and prepping meals in the kitchen. This early exposure instilled a life-long passion for guest service, eventually leading to his degree in Hotel Management from the Maastricht School of Hotel Management, which was founded by his grandfather and mentor.

After graduation, Oscar traveled to broaden his experience and worked in esteemed properties throughout Belgium, France, Israel and China before falling in love with New York City during his first visit. With the desire to challenge himself in the city that captivated him, Oscar left the familiar and accepted a job as MaĆ®tre d’Etage, managing an entire floor of guests, at the five star, five diamond St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan. Oscar’s dedication to providing flawless, individualized experiences for guests was recognized when a position as Food & Beverage Supervisor overseeing Lespinasse, King Cole Bar and Astor Court was created specifically for him. After being promoted to Assistant Restaurant Manager, Oscar sought another opportunity to test and refine his ability in the challenging role of Room Service Manager at the five star, five diamond Four Seasons Hotel, where he also played an integral role in creating and facilitating private events. He then transitioned into restaurants, implementing the methodical strategies he learned throughout his hotel career to re-open Bouley as Restaurant Manager.

In 2003, Oscar became Director of Operations at Nicole Farhi USA, where he managed the daily food and beverage operations for five years in the space that would later house Rouge Tomate New York. During his tenure, Oscar successfully ran Nicole’s while simultaneously opening the sister property, 202 Restaurant in Chelsea Market. During this time, he developed an expertise in executing events large and small for his highly affluent and celebrity guests.

In 2008, Oscar met Rouge Tomate proprietor Emmanuel Verstraeten, whose infectious energy and precise vision convinced him he should be part of the Rouge Tomate team. At Rouge Tomate New York, Oscar marries the organization and structure of a corporate background with the character and magnetism he insists on in each member of his front-of-house staff.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Oscar Henquet for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What inspired you to enter into the hospitality industry?
Oscar Henquet: My family must have been my biggest inspiration. I come from a family that owns many different hotels and restaurants in the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Growing up I got to know all the ins and outs about the business.

How has your grandfather impacted you and what led him to start the Maastricht School of Hotel Management?
My grandfather showed me how to be a professional in this business and a gentleman at the same time.
My great grandfather started one of the first hotels in Maastricht, almost 100 years ago. After my grandfather took over he didn’t just want to expand his business, but also believed in making the entire city and state grow. If he could make the state and the city more attractive for tourists and businesses, his business would improve as well. Educating students in business management and specifically hospitality management was part of that.

What makes your industry different in Manhattan compared to the rest of the world?
The energy and motivation that is present in this city is unparalleled. You get constantly inspired to achieve the best possible.

Where have you enjoyed working the most and why?
Rouge Tomate is an absolute dream project. It is a large restaurant, but yet so small. We are a very tight group and feel very much inspired by the owner.
The commitment we show to sustainability makes us a leader in this field. I’m very proud to be part of that.

What do you like most about your job?
The fact that so many guests appreciate and understand what we are trying to do, makes all the hard work seem very effortless.

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
West Village

What is your favorite drink?
Queens Cup, our version of a Pimm’s Cup

What is your favorite restaurant?
Rouge Tomate

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Watch the skyline when the sun sets.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Through Whom You Know

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