Santiago Gomez, was raised in Mexico City and studied economics and business management at Universidad Iberoamericana and Harvard University. As an investment banker for UBS in New York, he advised restaurant groups on acquisitions and expansion strategies in the U.S. and Latin America. During this time he felt that that Mexican cuisine in New York was not representative of the contemporary dishes that Chefs were actually creating in the culinary hotspots of Mexico. He developed his appreciation for global tastes through time spent in Madrid, Paris, and London, and maintains avid support of Mexican wines and gastronomy. Alongside his business partner Santiago Perez, Gomez gave birth to Cosme when they both flew to Mexico to recruit and partner with Chef Enrique Olvera. Gomez heads Cosme ́s public and media relations as well as the expansion of the brand.
How did you get into the Culinary industry?
It has always been my passion, after spending some years as a banker in UBS focusing on mergers and acquisitions for restaurant chains i decided it was time for me to shift and start my own restaurant. In 2012 I met Chef Enrique Olvera, and we started talking about this concept. Right after that, I quit my job at the bank and and devoted all my energy into this restaurant. After almost 2 years of work, we opened Cosme together.
Tell us about Cosme. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the restaurant?
Idea started in 2012 while dining at an italian restaurant downtown. We had a mexican waiter (I’m mexican too) and he was telling us how great chilaquiles were for hangovers and he was surprised there weren’t any good chilaquiles in New York. That was the first time the idea hit my head, and it never stopped until we opened.
We envision Cosme as the go-to restaurant in NY for contemporary mexican cuisine for many years to come.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Cosme's success?
We tried everything. Prior to the opening we hired two different PR companies, we had someone internally doing PR full time and never worked the way we wanted but we learned a lot. We realized none of those options shared the same passion and vision as we did. Now I manage Cosme’s PR and marketing myself.
I compare our strategy to being a guest in a radio show. You are the guest, you don’t ask for the mic, but when they give you the mic you surprise them with how ready you were for just those 2 minutes.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
We are lucky to be riding the wave of Mexican cuisine. In the 90’s people were craving about asian cuisine, japanese concepts stood out and Nobu was one of the first-movers. Now its turn for Latin American cuisine with mexican concepts standing out.
Take no shortcuts
Your greatest success as Proprietor of Cosme? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
The nomination for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, it is an honor.
Most difficult moment was during review season. There was a lot of tension as we knew the future of our business and our investment depended on that. We learned that the only way to get through was to be ourselves and deliver the product the best we can, always with passion and things will turn out fine.
Your advice to an aspiring restaurateur?
Once you are convinced that a concept will work, stick to it. It is your son, don’t let anything or anyone take it from you.
Describe the ideal experience at Cosme.
Sunday, 1:00pm on a hot summer day. You come for Cosme’s brunch. You get a spiked agua fresca, some oysters and chilaquiles and end up with some carajillos.
How important are architecture/design to the success of Cosme?
Cosme’s space used to be Ten’s stripclub, so we gutted the whole place. Alonso de Garay (also a partner at Cosme) did an amazing architectural job by adding Mexican, yet contemporary details to the design. It feels relaxed and intimate, yet fun and inviting. I’m very happy with what we achieved.
Most popular dishes/drinks and your favorites?
Duck Carnitas, the corn husk meringue and a margarita
How do you motivate your employees?
I don’t see it as an employee / owner relationship, i see it as a boat and we are all rowing in the same direction together, we achieve goals together.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Tacos al pastor, very spicy michelada, salt on the rim.
What literature is on your bed stand?
How to burn down the house
Role model - business and personal?
Phil Suarez and my parents, respectively
Wine, Real Madrid and all types of diving (sky, scuba).
Favorite travel destination?
Tulum. It’s a magical place, you find everything there and you don’t need anything. All you do is eat, exercise and enjoy nature. Scuba diving in the caves surrounding the cenotes and great food at night by the beach.
What's next for Cosme?
We just opened for weekend brunch.