All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Thursday, December 10, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Caroline Alexa McBride, Director of Public Relations for Serafina Restaurant Group

Caroline Alexa McBride is the Director of Public Relations for Serafina Restaurant Group, a family owned company co-founded by restaurateurs Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato, consisting of eight restaurants in New York City, a catering division and pasta sauce products sold nationally. She implements development and marketing strategies for the existing sites while managing elements of operations and supporting expansion of new locations including those in Philadelphia, East Hampton, Brazil and Qatar.

McBride also handles media relations on behalf of the group’s restaurants--five Serafina locations, Geisha, Brasserie Cognac, and Mañana.  All of the establishments are well known throughout the city for providing excellent cuisine in an energetic atmosphere attracting jet setters, power brokers, famous athletes, celebrities and local families.  

Before joining Serafina Restaurant Group, McBride was a professional fundraiser in New York City where she raised millions of dollars for local non-profits while at the helm of McBride Capital Campaigns and Events. She used her vast network to link those "who have" with those "who need" by producing and managing fundraising events which connected the business community with charitable endeavors.

McBride also enjoyed success fundraising for local, state and national political campaigns in an attempt to influence the outcome of elections and ultimately impact public policy for the greater good of society.

A native of California, McBride earned her B.A. in Political Science at Loyola Marymount University and holds an M.A. in International Relations from the Universiteit van Amsterdam where she studied as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.  Her interests include boxing, international travel, dance, nutrition, music and charitable causes.

Although McBride currently resides in New York City and is a regular on the party circuit, she frequently travels to Los Angeles to spend time with her family.  We are so pleased to present her as our latest Mover and Shaker! 

Peachy Deegan interviewed Caroline Alexa McBride for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What inspired you to join the Serafina restaurant group?

Caroline Alexa McBride: I love the Serafina concept and the men who conceived it, Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato.  Serafina is unpretentious, hip and fun.  The food and energy are amazing! Celebrities and jet setters dine next to ordinary New Yorkers while businessmen make deals as mothers at nearby tables eat with their children.  Everyone is welcome and everyone leaves happy. 

If you could eat for a 24 hour period at any of the Serafina restaurants anything and money and calories were no object, what would you have and where and in what order?
Ironically, this is not a hypothetical question, it is a reality (with the exception of calories being a non-issue).  Fortunately, our eight restaurants offer four different cuisines (Italian, Japanese, French and Mexican) so I never overdose on one type of food.  An entire day of eating could start off with the best orange zest brioche and café au lait  at Brasserie Cognac for breakfast.  For lunch, Avacado de Manana, flauatas, tostaditas de pollo and warm tortilla chips with guacamole at Mañana, followed by a late afternoon warm goat cheese salad at Serafina.  Early evening would start with Geisha’s famous Black Truffle Tuna Sandwich and the most unbelievable Tartar Trio—Atlantic Salmon, Yellowfin Tuna and Sushi Grade Spanish Mackerel.  Dinner at Serafina would include our famous Focaccia Di Sofia made with truffle oil, and for an entrée I would choose either the Filetto Di Salmone with lentils and spinach, Grilled Filet Mignon or the Chicken Breast Paillard. For dessert, I would have our Souffle Di Cioccolato or Berry Tart.  Then I would go dancing to burn it off!

What is a typical day like for you?
Every day is different.  I start with an intense work out at the gym, then I check Page Six to see if any of our restaurants are mentioned.  Next, I head to the office and notify Vittorio and Fabio about anything important happening during the day.  Almost all of my meetings take place at one of our 8 locations.  Some days I am in meetings with Vittorio and Fabio and I have many work dinners.  After dinner I swing by any location that is having an event, like a live music performance or a special food and wine tasting.  If I have enough energy, I will meet friends at a party or club and afterwards I will swing by Mañana on my way home.  Our manager from St. Barth’s, Philippe Bondon Olivier, keeps the party hot until early morning.

What do most people not know about Serafina that they should?
Serafina’s food is under priced, it is the best deal in town for consumers.  We are able to offer high quality cuisine at affordable prices because we do such a heavy volume.  Most restaurants would charge much more for the quality you get at Serafina.

We talk to several PR people a day and Peachy can count on less than one hand how many have made it to Mover and Shaker, despite many of them nominating and promoting themselves, which doesn't work and which you never did.  What makes you and your strategies so successful?
Thank you, it was such a pleasant surprise when you asked me to be a Mover and Shaker.   I do well representing the Serafina brand because my heart is in it.   I genuinely love the concept, the men who created it and the diverse team of 650 employees who sustain the Serafina brand.  Editors and journalists like you seem to appreciate the sincerity that I deliver when discussing the positive elements of Serafina Restaurant Group.  I could never fake it!

Do you have future political ambitions?
No, I would never seek office.  I used to be very politically active as a campaign volunteer, advocate and eventually a paid political fundraiser.  However, I became disillusioned as I grew older when politicians let me down.  There are still many who I admire and I will always vote and try to support my favorite candidates and initiatives as much as possible.

How does being a successful fundraiser help you in what you do now?
As a fundraiser, I learned how to “sell” a charity and convince people to donate. Donors were more apt to give when they liked me.   As Director of Public Relations, I have to make people realize that Serafina is amazing on so many levels.  It helps when people like me because they listen and ultimately frequent our restaurants.  Both are “people” driven professions and it is important to be able to communicate with so many different personalities.  Fortunately, Serafina is an easy “sell” because it is such a fun and delicious brand.

As a regular on the social circuit in Manhattan, what are your favorite spots to hit and why?
Private dinner parties are the most rewarding because you find yourself in a select crowd of people who are more apt to socialize.  Late night, you will find me at Butter on Mondays, and the rest of the week I hit 1OAK, Cipriani Upstairs, Mañana (of course!) and Le Cirque where they recently started a fun Friday night party.  I also check out whatever is new at the moment, like 18th Floor and Juliet.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My parents.  I’m the daughter of a successful businessman and my mother is an effective educator who has impacted so many young lives. I’d like to make them proud of me, maybe someday!

What are you proudest of and why?
Maintaining my morals in this city of temptation.  I’ve had many opportunities to advance my career and bank account by accepting unethical propositions, but I’ve always resisted.  New York is very competitive and I’ve seen people compromise basic decency to get ahead.  Inevitably, we have to answer to God and nothing is worth disrespecting Him. I am happy to be where I am with a clear conscious.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

In a restaurant or club for fun.  The gym or church for peace of mind.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Henri Bendel.  It is beautiful and I have fond memories of shopping there with my mother during my childhood visits to New York.

What is your favorite drink?
San Benedetto Sparkling water.  I drink at least two bottles every day at my office.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

Obviously all the restaurants in the group—Serafina, Geisha, Brasserie Cognac and Mañana.  I also love Cipriani Downtown and Harry Cipriani 5th Ave.  Harry and Giuseppe Cipriani ooze style and sophistication and, don’t forget, the Cipriani family invented the Bellini and Carpaccio! Da Silvano is also a favorite because I have so many memories there and Silvano Marchetto is a legend in his own right, he even brought Panna Cotta to America.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
The Godfather by Mario Puzo.  It is a tale of immigrant endurance in a city built by the hands of dreamers from other countries.  The characters in the book depict the desire to survive and succeed in a society that is very tough.  Throughout the grittiness, Puzo incorporates elements of Italian culture that are undeniably beautiful like the food, family bond, language and religion.  He combines the old world with the new world.  Italian immigrants gave New York City some of her most remarkable traits.  In my opinion, the Italians and Irish were the most influential immigrant groups that built the fabric of our great city.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?

Taking boxing lessons taught by tough New Yorkers—Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Firemen, former Marines…  They motivate me in ways I never thought possible.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Walk outside, put my hand up in the air and meet a driver willing to take me wherever I want to go.  Taxis make life very convenient.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
ARTrageous is a fundraiser I helped develop with its founder, Linda Argila.  We have raised millions of dollars for foster kids by organizing collaborations with famous artists like Jeff Koons, Romero Britto and Peter Beard.  It is inspirational to hang out with the artists and bond with neglected children while amazing art is created.

I love music and have attended many concerts at Madison Square Garden including U2 and Depeche Mode.  However, two more intimate memories happened unexpectedly.
About five years ago, while dining with Harry Cipriani and a group of Italians at Cipriani Downtown, an opera singer spontaneously stood up and sung her heart out to an astonished and suddenly silent group of dinners.  The experience was surreal and her performance nearly brought me to tears as everyone clapped at the end. 
More recently, I found myself at 1OAK where Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva hire DJs who blast the best music.  On this particular night, Kid Cudi grabbed the mic and performed his hit “Day & Nite” and everyone went crazy dancing.  He rocked it and the night was especially memorable because I wasn’t expecting to hear one of my all time favorite songs performed live.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
The most underrated is the significant role that New York City plays in American society.  New York City is the epicenter of the financial, art, theater, ethnic, fashion, publishing and culinary worlds--this city fuels the rest of the country.
The most overrated is the subway system.  It is filthy, crowded and frequently late.  It could be great if the MTA provided better service.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Peachy's Picks and Champagne Wishes!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?

Yes, I am a natural redhead.  Yes, I really am American.  I don’t know where my accent comes from, it must be Euro-Californian.  I get those questions often.

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

Facebook: Caroline Alexa McBride
Twitter: Caroline_Alexa

Back to TOP