In ancient Mexico, when Quetzalcoatl transformed into The Black Ant and journeyed into the mountain, he found corn and seeds and gave these to man. This generous gesture created the essence of Mexican cuisine. Now The Black Ant offers an invitation to you to forget what you know and come with him, to his Mexico, to his New York City… to his heart.
Jorge Guzman and Chef Mario Hernandez bring you, The Black Ant. A modern Mexican restaurant focusing on the traditional and uniquely sourced ingredients of Mexico in a contemporary, “Cocina de Autor” in Manhattan’s East Village. Chef Hernandez shares his vision of Contemporary Latin Cuisine, harmoniously paired with Jorge’s innovative handcrafted cocktails and together with their partner Cliff Fried; they bring you their passion and love and look forward to having you.
Jorge Guzman was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in and around his father's hotel, restaurant and discotheque businesses. He started small, working the ice cream cart at the age of ten. Pursuing his artistic talents, he attended the Altos de Chavon School of Design. He then spent some time in producing and promoting music concerts. Jorge soon found that he had inherited his father’s true passion for the hospitality industry, which led Jorge to make a move to New York City to gain experience with the finest restaurateurs in the world.
Jorge took on positions in some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, including Le Cirque, Annisa and One If By Land, working with industry leaders Danny Meyer, David Friedman and Simon Oren. As he worked, his responsibility grew into leadership roles. During this time Jorge obtained certification from the International Wine Center, and completed the New School’s Restaurant Management course; he realized he wanted to own his own restaurant.
In December 2009, at the age of 26, Jorge Guzman seized an opportunity to partner with respected chef Luis Mota to found Ofrenda Cocina Mexicana, in New York’s West Village. True to the meaning of the word Ofrenda, Jorge led the team, now including Executive Chef Mario Hernandez, to offer his adopted city of New York authentic, home-cooked, traditional Mexican food, paired with fine wines and his own expertly crafted cocktails.
He, Cliff and Chef Mario operate The Black Ant, which opened in the East Village in May 2014. Here, the menu is Contemporary Mexican, with a component of ants, chapulines and other insect ingredients, bringing the international culinary commonplace to New York’s diners. Some of Guzman’s cocktails incorporate insects in ant salt rims, for example—not as a novelty, but as a truly serious culinary element.
2016 saw J.G. Hospitality expanding boldly, with Temerario in the Chelsea neighborhood, with Chef Mario serving Mexican-style street food, and specialty cocktails. Next door to Temerario, in January 2017, he opened Lamano, a Spanish wine bar serving a small tapas menu. In May 2018, Lamano West Village opened on a quaint tree-lined street serving the same great food as its flagship.
In addition, Guzman will launch Boutique hotels, a Night Club and Restaurants with locations in Dominican Republic and Mexico, in 2019. With these projects and more to come in NY and LA, Jorge Guzman Hospitality Group will become one of New York’s leading entrepreneurial representatives for the cause of Latin cuisine and mixology. Jorge Guzman Hospitality brands have been featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The New York Times,The Boston Globe, CNN, The Yorker, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Fox News, Popular Science, Travel Channel, Travel + Leisure, Food and Wine, Michelin Guide and GQ Magazine.
OWNER / PARTNER
Cliff Freid grew up in Riverdale, NY and began working at the age of 11. During his teenage years, he worked in various Catskill Mountain hotels for the summer as waiter, busboy and even as a horse wrangler. After that, he continued with jobs in hospitality, including The Mark Hotel, until he turned 24. It was during those 13 years that he discovered his passion for food and the restaurant business.
Then his life took a slight detour when he decided to change careers and became a Union activist/leader. He graduated Cornell University with a degree in Labor Relations. He found success in his Union career defending thousands of workers which culminated into passing legislature in New Jersey to save 40,000 workers jobs, as well as securing the future UMDNJ, the largest state Medical school, and its University Hospital, the State’s largest trauma hospital.
It was during his years as a labor leader that he discovered Ofrenda restaurant in New York City’s West Village, which immediately became his favorite place to go. Aside from serving incredible food and drinks in a fun atmosphere, the staff made him feel like part of the family. He and owner Jorge Guzman became fast friends, eventually leading to an opportunity for Cliff to become a partial owner in the business. This served as Cliff’s entree back into hospitality world he had so enjoyed.
Experiencing great success with Ofrenda, owners Cliff and Jorge along with Chef Mario Hernandez decided that they would pursue the dream of a second restaurant which was realized in June 2014 when then opened The Black Ant in New York’s East Village. They have again managed to create a successful venture by replicating the formula for Ofrenda in a larger, stylish venue with a more adventurous menu. They are currently in the process of pursuing a third restaurant, anticipated to open in fall 2014 in New York City.
Cliff lives in New York City, near the two restaurants.