Making people happy since 2009
1998 - 2003
Founder Gabriel Stulman spends several years working in local restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin while attending college there. During this time, he falls in love with the restaurant industry and meets many of the people who would later become part of the Happy Cooking family at local restaurants including Café Montmartre, Magnus, The Great Dane, and Paul’s Club.
Upon graduation from UW Madison, Gabriel moves to New York City and begins working in Manhattan restaurants. He works his way up from bartender to eventually opening The Little Owl and Market Table as a partner.
Gabriel along—with his wife, Gina, chef James McDuffee and partners Matt Kebbekus and Brian Bartels—open Joseph Leonard in a small corner space in the West Village.
The team opens Jeffrey’s Grocery across the street from Joseph Leonard. Originally conceived of as a hybrid food market and lunch counter, the space soon evolves into a full-service, all-day restaurant with a focus on seafood.
Longtime West Village restaurateur Fedora Dorato approaches Gabriel and Gina to take over the space where she’d operated her eponymous bar and restaurant since 1952. Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly joins the team as Fedora’s chef, with Brian Bartels overseeing the cocktails.
Also in January 2011
The restaurant group’s nickname, “Little Wisco,” is coined in a profile of the growing company in The New York Times, which highlights the number of Wisconsonites working at the restaurants and their emphasis on Midwestern hospitality.
The Little Wisco team opens Perla, an Italian restaurant on Minetta Lane.
Gabriel and Mehdi open Chez Sardine, an izakaya-inspired Asian restaurant.
The group ventures outside of the West Village for the first time by opening Montmartre, a modern French bistro located in West Chelsea.
Chez Sardine becomes Bar Sardine, a bar and restaurant serving upscale pub food and whimsical craft cocktails.
Little Wisco officially transitions to the company name Happy Cooking Hospitality, meant to better reflect the company's mission and diverse makeup as it has grown since 2009.
Montmartre serves its last steak frites. Goodbye West Chelsea, thanks for all the good times!
Also in March 2016
Perla packs up and moves a few blocks from its first home on Minetta Lane to new digs at 234 West 4th St. The Happy Cooking restaurants are now all neighbors - the new Perla cafe, bar Sardine and Fedora are all within a block of each other, with Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's Grocery across 7th Ave.
Perla Cafe is transformed in to Fairfax, an all-day cafe and wine bar. The space is inspired by the comforts of a design focused living room curated by Gabe and Gina and perfect for anything, anytime of day.
We travel out of the West Village in to Gramercy with our new partners, The Sydell Group, in opening three properties within The Freehand Hotel: Simon & The Whale, Studio and George Washington Bar.
Fairfax is one of ten restaurants nationwide, and the only one in New York City, named Best New Restaurant of the Year by Food & Wine.
We welcome our new neighbors in NoHo as we open The Jones, an all-day neighborhood space on historic Great Jones Street. Walk in, hang out.
Matthew KebbekusCOO/Managing Partner
Rachel MeyersChief Financial Officer
Erin PalisinDirector of Strategic Development
James McDuffeeDirector of Operations/Managing Partner
Matt GriffinExecutive Chef/Managing Parter
Cassidy KorenFinance Manager
Tina BejasaGuest Relations Manager
Andrea HidanoOffice Manager
Patrick McGrathExecutive Chef/Managing Partner
Jack HarrisExecutive Chef/Managing Partner
James LauerGeneral Manager/Managing Partner
Edwin SotoFacilities Manager
Amanda GrossDirector of Events