"Introducing an emerging designer creating captivating leather fashions."
IKEMEN #27: M KOUGER
IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang
"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"
Name: M KOUGER
Occupation: BAR/RESUTAURANT OWNER
“Paris meet New York” - M Kouger-
M Kouger is an owner of Chloe 81/Chloe 81 Blue on Ludlow Street in Lower East Side, New York. Upscale and very luxurious basement lounge and oyster bar have been amusing all New Yorkers. TWELV got a chance to interview with the owner, M. He is very energetic, humorous, determined, great entrepreneur, and entertainer indeed. M is a multi-talented owner and is definitely a One to Watch!
1. What brings you to New York City?
M: What brings every transplant to NYC - the promise of opportunity. I came here in my late teenage years to be a successful business owner. Out of every country in the world and out of every city in this country - New York offers the biggest and best rewards for hard and intelligent work. I came here to be successful. Period.
2. What ignited the spark in you to start a new oyster bar? How did the idea for your business come about?
M: It’s actually a concept that I’ve had for several years. As with any project, obstacles can hinder efforts and I’ve had a couple of abortive attempts. Since my first desire to create such an oyster/raw bar several institutions have popped up on both sides of the river with varying degrees of success, but I’ve kept up the promise to myself to create a unique experience amongst an ever crowded scene.
3. Where's your inspirations for interior design inside of Chloe 81/Chloe 81 Blue comes from?
M: Paris. Specifically, the underground and the cafés, the openness and the attitude. Also, my time living in the Netherlands helped infuse a more minimalistic approach to my aesthetics. The lines of my spaces may be masculine, but there is an organic warmth, especially in the lighting and ambience that is feminine.
4. What is so special/particular about Chloe 81 cocktail signatures?
M: I worked closely with my long-time friend and brother, Jason Hoyt, to create an accessible cocktail list using quality ingredients and materials. It is a list that spans different periods of the American cocktail library. We hit most of the major bases: bourbon, rye, gin, tequila, mezcal, even absinthe and vodka to appeal to the locals and international visitors alike. Nothing comes out of a line - not even the club soda or tonic. Our list is short but to the point. There is a 1920s-era drink invented in Michigan, where Jason is from, called the Last Word. We tweaked the ratios in order to appeal more to the contemporary palette (we don’t use equal proportions which some bartenders may abhor but we are trying to bring the classy to the Post-Modern era).
5. What or who has been your greatest inspiration?
M: My God, my maternal grandmother and New York herself.
6. How do you generate new ideas? What motivates you?
M: There are a million ideas running around in my head at all times. It’s a regret that I won’t be able to see them all through fruition.
7. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
M: I love the solitary time on the road, just me on my motorcycle. The sound of the howling wind allows me to think clearly and the animal growl of the engine is actually very calming.
8. What sacrifice have you had to make to be a successful restaurant/bar owner?
M: There are more sacrifices owning and running a restaurant in New York than I care to admit to myself. It’s hard to hang out with family and friends unless they come to your establishment. My body has taken a toll after so long as well. You lose sleep, personal time, rest. Sometimes, when I catch a short break to see family in Europe, it feels as if the world has moved on without me and I have to catch up. Your mind has to run on a different clock all of the time and others around me can’t always understand that that is what it takes.
9. Where's your favorite restaurant dining memory?
M: I have to say some of my fondest dining experiences have been while driving on the Normandy coast stopping by a seaside cafe, sucking down some oysters with a bottle of Muscadet and a girlfriend… or two.
Just sitting in a corner cafe in Paris in the 2nd or 9th arrondissements and watching people go by, espresso in hand, a glass of chartreuse on the table, waiting, makes everything worth it.
10. What are the best bars you had great time at?
M: The bars where my friends are: whenever, wherever in the world.
11. Can you tell us two or three major trends in the bar/restaurant/nightlife in New York City?
M: One trend would be sourcing local, which is not new but becoming more and more of a solid custom amongst all types of restaurants, fromageries, and cuisines; From the types of wines a restaurant procures to even the location of Absinthe distilleries (the U.S. and even New York state is rocking the Absinthe scene!). A second would be creating custom syrups, bitters, tinctures, sauces, salts, etc.
12. If there is one thing about the restaurant industry you would change, what would it be?
M: Yelp, social taxonomies, etc. Everyone thinks they are a foodie. What a nuisance.
13. If you were to open a new restaurant, what type and where would it be?
M: Who says that I am NOT in the process of opening yet another restaurant? Just wait a moment - I am launching new and exciting things very soon to the New York scene.
14. Can you tell me one of your memorable moments at Chloe 81 and Chloe 81 Blue?
M: There are some nights when a group of friends come in unannounced and want table service without even knowing or caring if I am there or not. The DJ is hitting them especially in their sweet spot and I’m able to sit down with them and dance the night away while everyone else in the crowd is loving it. Those nights feed me.
15. What are 3 tips for running a successful restaurant/bar?
M: Be ready to sacrifice everything - if you are not, don’t even bother. Be focused. Hire those you would trust with your life.
16. What are your career goals for restaurant/bar owner?
M: All I care about is ensuring that everyone that walked into my bars and restaurants has an amazing experience. That includes my staff, myself, my friends, regulars and newcomers. I want to craft great user experiences for everyone.
17. Where would like to be in 3 years? 5 years?
M: In 3 years I will be opening yet another venue and in 5 years I’ll be enjoying life on the Mediterranean European coast introducing them to a proper Old-Fashioned.
18. What is the best words to describe your restaurant/bar?
M: Paris meet New York.
WRITTEN & INTERVIEWED BY: RACHEL IIMURA
PHOTOGRAPHY: COLIN HUGHES