You’ve eaten at their restaurants. You’ve drunk at their bars, sometimes heavily. You’ve admired their clothes, their swagger, their notoriety. Maybe you’ve even thought, “I could do that,” knowing full well you can’t. And if you tried, your wife would kill you.

In a good restaurant, we, as patrons, only see the one side, which is the outside: The glamour, the hype, the people, the excitement, it looks like fun and we want to do it. But this business is tough. Once you step behind those kitchen doors, it’s another world. It’s acrobats and unicycles on a live wire. Worrying whether the chef is using two teaspoons of salt instead of three. Whether the waitress brought the drinks out in the right order. Whether the busboy cleared the tables fast enough. It’s a shell game of inventory, people and supplies that doesn’t stop.

It’s no surprise when someone does it well, I mean really well, they’re exceptional. And can stand out far ahead of the pack to become something of a juggernaut. Each one has to be different and extraordinary in his own way. Like Steve Carl of Carlyle On The Green and Carlyle At The Palace (and, any minute, Trump On The Ocean). And Jay Grossman who runs Four Food Studio and Two Steak & Sushi Den. And Brian Rosenberg holding court at Sugar Dining Den & Social Club. Or Michael Bohlsen forging ahead with H20, Prime, Verace, Teller’s and Beachtree (and soon, Monsoon). Each has a signature style, perspective and method to his madness. But what they share is the reality of what it takes: Endless passion, hard work, tenacity and inventiveness.

They’re pied pipers. They’re ventriloquists. They’re ringmasters. They’re fortune tellers. And they are funhouse mirrors who make people see themselves exactly how they want to be seen every single time they walk through the doors at one of their restaurants. You think you know these guys when you come in. And to some extent you do. They are there waiting for you. Ever friendly, ever ready to serve. Ever hopeful they’ll please you better this time than they did the last.

But there is the other side too. The inside. The side behind those smiles and kitchen doors. I’ve wondered about it, too…

*Following are excerpts from live interviews conducted individually over cocktails and large meals at hours of the night appropriate for workaholics (not really). The questions and details have been omitted to allow a first-person account. Blanks have been filled in with fiction and fantasy. Shot on location at Nassau Flyers, a full service flight school and aviation club. No aircraft were injured in the production (or destruction) of this session.

Steve Carl

When I first met Steve Carl a million years ago and he told me he owned the place nestled above Bethpage Black, I almost didn’t believe him, but I could tell he wasn’t lying.
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Brian Rosenberg

This once-rocker-turned-nightclub-promoter-extraordinaire holds forth at Sugar now. It’s all the things a good nightclub should be: Exciting scene, glamorous people, hip music. But it’s been made in the form of what a good Long Island nightclub needs to be: The newly fashioned restaurant lounge.
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Jay Grossman

It takes a big man to admit he doesn’t need to be the smartest guy in the room. And everything about Jay Grossman is comparably big.
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Michael Bohlsen

Michael Bohlsen is waxing on a much larger scale in a very self assured, fully realized sense of self, sort of way. The guy who spends all his time at his family’s restaurant group is actually a Duke-educated history buff who steals private time to travel the world, take in cultural events and fish in Guatemala with his brother and counterpart in the business.
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nada marjanovich

nada marjanovich

Nada Marjanovich is Publisher and Editor of Long Island Pulse Magazine. Prior to founding the title in 2005, she worked extensively in the internet. She's been writing since childhood and has been published for both fiction and poetry.