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.
Joey Smith has spent 15 years in the hospitality industry before coming to JG Hospitality as the Beverage Director. Most recently, he was the Head Bartender at the NoMad Hotel in Manhattan, helping lead the much-lauded program to the number 3 spot on the prestigious 50 Best Bars list by San Pellegrino. He was also a senior member of “America’s Best Bar Team” as recognized at The Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail in 2017 and represented NoMAd at Espolon Cocktail Fights 2019, finishing in the top 3 nationally. He also previously joined forces with the reigning number 1 restaurant on San Pellegrino's 50 best restaurant list, Eleven Madison Park, on their ambitious move to East Hampton for the first iteration of EMP Summer House.
Previous to his time at NoMad, Joey spent 2 years learning the modernist techniques of James Beard Award winning author and godfather of modernist cocktails Dave Arnold at his highly acclaimed bar Booker and Dax. Utilizing his background in physical science, honed during his four years in the Integrative Physiology program at the University of Colorado, Joey used rotary evaporators, centrifuges, liquid nitrogen, red hot pokers, carbonation systems, and isi infusors to create truly one of a kind libations and gain a deeper understand of the science of flavor and the future of innovative culinary techniques.
Born and raised in Colorado, Joey has always pursued new and interesting flavors from around the world. Beginning at SALT, a farm to table restaurant in Downtown Boulder, and working his way to one of the world’s best bars in Manhattan, he has endlessly sought to learn everything about the culinary traditions around him. He has traveled extensively in the pursuit of culinary knowledge, tasting Bourbon from the center of Kentucky's storied rickhouses, bottling Raicilla straight from clay stills in rural Jalisco, and harvesting wild gentian in the hills of France for Aperitif production. He aspires to visit more of the best restaurants, hotels, stills, vineyards. and cocktail temples all around the world, and is always looking for the inspiration to continue producing world class drinks with the highest attention to detail and technique. He also operates his own consulting, catering, and bottled cocktail business called Get Rich or Fine Dining.
CHEF DE CUISINE
Chef Iliana Sermeno born and raised in Tijuana,Mexico started loving pastry and food since 12 years old. Her pssion for cooking professionally started in 2012 and decided to enroll in Culinary Art School in Tijuana. She had internships in Mexico City at a well known pastry shop, in England at an italian restaurant and in a hotel in Laguna Beach,
California, working with one of the best Orange County chefs. Have worked with non profit organizations, such as Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative by actor Forest Whitaker. Joined Black Ant Team in 2019.