Akhtar Nawab is chef and owner of Alta Calidad in New York, Otra Vez in New Orleans, and Prather’s on the Alley in Washington, DC. He is also founding partner and Co-CEO of Hospitality HQ (HHQ), a creative consulting and management group which offers bespoke solutions for culinary-driven concepts across the country.
Nawab’s ‘less-is-more’ style of cooking has earned him critical praise throughout the years, beginning with his experience in the kitchen at acclaimed restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, Craftbar and Craft, the latter of which received three stars from The New York Times and won the James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” Award during Nawab’s tenure. Nawab received StarChef’s “Rising Star Chef” award while serving as executive chef of East Village gastropub The E.U., before striking out on his own as chef/partner in Elettaria in 2008. Shortly thereafter, he found himself gravitating towards Mexican cuisine and took the helm at popular NYC hotspot La Esquina. In 2017, Nawab opened his innovative Mexican restaurant Alta Calidad in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating in 2018 and 2019 and continues to thrive as a neighborhood mainstay. Nawab and his business partner Michael Wetherbee launched Hospitality HQ in 2019, which quickly grew into one of the country’s premier food hall management firms with properties in Omaha, NE (Inner Rail Food Hall), Chicago, IL (Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall), Houston, TX (Lyric Market, opening Winter 2021) and more projects soon to be announced.
Nawab has been featured in various publications including Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, USA Today and Eater, and has appeared on NBC’s TODAY Show, CBS This Morning Saturday, PBS’ “Simply Ming,” as well as Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and as a regular judge on “Beat Bobby Flay”. He has also been featured in the acclaimed cookbook Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs (Phaidon, 2009) and J’aime New York: 150 Culinary Destinations for Food Lovers (Ducasse Books, 2012), and has just released his first cookbook, Good For You: Bold Flavors with Benefits (Chronicle Books, August 2020). Good For You embodies Nawab’s passion for healthful, delicious cuisine, showcasing his trusted repertoire of wholesome recipes influenced by international flavors and refined by decades of professional training.
CO-CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER / FOUNDING PARTNER
Michael has worked with some of the world’s most renowned chefs, restaurants and operators including David Chang’s Momofuku Ma Peche (awarded two stars by The New York Times), as well as AvroKo’s PUBLIC (one Michelin star) and Saxon + Parole (awarded one star by The New York Times). In 2017, Michael opened Alta Calidad with his partner, chef Akhtar Nawab, and has been instrumental in growing the company from a single restaurant to helming the diverse portfolio of food & beverage assets Hospitality HQ has today. Michael’s range of operational experience spans from fine dining to fast casual restaurants, hotels, food halls, and beyond, affording him the unique ability to create dynamic and memorable food and beverage experiences for guests of any Hospitality HQ property.
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER / PARTNER
Robert Peller is the principal of both Peller and Company, LLC as well as Peller Wealth Management. He is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an MBA with a concentration in taxation. In addition, he is a registered financial advisor trained in wealth management, life insurance and financial consulting. Robert practices in the areas of corporate, individual and Estate planning for clients in a vast array of industries and specialties including F&B, real estate, media, entertainment, retail, technology, fashion, luxury goods, film, television, book publishing, music, sports, franchises, advertising and the arts. His focus is on the tax and retirement planning as it relates to his clients and their unique needs especially as they start and grow including creation of holding company structure and capital financing needs of start-ups. Robert also advises international clients in connection with ever changing US tax laws for strategic planning specific to individuals, corporations and LLC’s. He also consults on equity and debt financings, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, business formations, reorganizations and restructurings and holding company formation and execution.
Robert is regularly down on Capital Hill lobbying with various groups for tax legislation. Aside from serving on the board of Hospitality HQ, he serves on other boards and committees, including the board of a real estate conglomerate, an international fashion company, a De Novo Bank, and several other advisory finance committees. He is also especially proud to be on the board of several Not-for-Profit organizations.
CHIEF CULINARY OFFICER / PARTNER
Chef Cruz Goler has over 20 years of professional restaurant experience, ranging from four-star French and Italian restaurants like Jean-George and Del Posto, vegetarian Michelin-starred Nix, La Pecora Bianca, Lupa and multi-outlet hotels such as The Standard. Beyond New York City, Cruz has opened restaurants in Hong Kong and cooked his way through South America and Mexico. Cruz has always integrated the greenmarket community and small farmers into every project he’s worked on, and his role with Hospitality HQ is no exception. In addition to focusing on culinary operations and brand development, Cruz’s focus at HHQ often includes launching green initiatives and strengthening existing projects with efforts around locality and sustainability.
Alexandra Pearson Looney
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS / PARTNER
Alex fell into a career in PR for her love of writing and storytelling, and stayed upon realizing she could make a living talking about food and praising those who make it (which was already her favorite hobby). Her decade in the field has granted her the opportunity to bring awareness to some of the industry’s leading culinary creatives and organizations including the James Beard Foundation, Happy Cooking Hospitality, Big Night Restaurant Group, historic oyster and chop house Gage & Tollner, award-winning celebrity chefs Jose Enrique and Seamus Mullen, and many more. As Director of Communications for Hospitality HQ, Alex works closely with each project partner to create a smart, thoughtful brand that strongly resonates with each market and consumer base. Her addition to the team ensures that all Hospitality HQ properties garner quality media coverage, high engagement, lucrative partnerships and events, and sincere customer retention.
Matthew Taylor’s culinary career began with an intrigue for the fast paced, creative world of restaurants. He got his start training under Chef Raymond Timpone in his old world Italian kitchen in Urbana, IL, and worked his way up through some of the most respected restaurants in the country including 2-Michelin starred Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA. A natural entrepreneur, Matt opened his first restaurant Rivers Italian in Grand Rapids, MN in 2008, before branching into managerial staff training in the multi-unit hospitality industry. Matt’s range of experience allowed him to create systems that bridge elements of both elevated and approachable dining, thereby cultivating truly standout hospitality leaders and robust business models within the casual dining market.
Matt initially joined the Hospitality HQ team as general manager of Inner Rail Food Hall, the group’s inaugural food hall project in Omaha, NE. His dedication, leadership, and creativity were integral in driving both the success of the food hall and each of its vendors, particularly when faced with the unforeseen consequences of the international COVID-19 pandemic. Under Matt’s management, Inner Rail remained safely open for business throughout the shutdown, and was the first food hall in the nation to adopt a COVID-19 safety manual (as produced by HHQ). In his current position as Regional Director, Matt plays a critical role in building streamlined operational systems for new HHQ projects, as well as ensuring efficiency and consistency for existing projects.