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They’re Originals Meet the Leaders of a Thriving Local Restaurant Collective | featured in Edible Sarasota Magazine | Winter 2020

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BY  / PHOTOGRAPHY BY  | JANUARY 27, 2020

Clockwise from left to right: Mark Tuchman, Liza Kubik, Michael Klauber, Joe Farrell, Nikki Logan-Curran, Mike Harb, D'Arcy Arpke, Marc Grimaud, and Emma Kate Silvestri | Location: Pop’s Sunset Grill; popssunsetgrill.com

From breakfast to midnight snack--fresh seafood to smoked ribs-- taco stand to white tablecloth--our locally-owned eateries form an endlessly explorable dining scene that’s now as big an attraction as our beaches.

It’s no accidental phenomenon. For 16 years, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ growing collective of independently-operated restaurants has championed their “stronger together” vision. Around 60 members proudly claim Original status, sharing purchasing power, marketing clout, and most importantly, the free exchange of experience and knowledge in their highly-demanding industry. When you see an Originals decal in a restaurant window, you may enter knowing the people behind each establishment hold themselves to a standard of excellence that continually lifts all ships in our foodie harbor. Furthermore, the Originals’ strength as an organization supports local philanthropy as members donate the meals that feed generosity at hundreds of benefits, galas, and fundraisers each season.

Uniting such a diverse community around a vision takes unflagging passion for the Suncoast’s famous brand of hospitality. The Originals’ operations are spearheaded by a mighty two-member staff team, Executive Director Sarah Firstenberger and Event and Program Coordinator Veronica Clinton, and shepherded by a devoted Board of Directors. Meet nine visionaries who currently serve on the Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ Board, collaborating on the Originals’ shared mission to sustain our restaurant community’s vibrancy.

Marc Grimaud, President

With a deep understanding of restaurant operations, the owner of Café Gabbiano knows all about behind-the-scenes factors that make or break a restaurant. He leads by example through Café Gabbiano’s ethos in from-scratch cooking and locally-sourced ingredients. “Our local restaurants are the heart and soul of the area,” Grimaud says. “They define and reflect the community.”

Nikki Logan-Curran, Vice President

“This organization’s evolution has created a platform for local restaurants to secure their turf and make people want to keep coming back for more,” says Nikki Logan-Curran. Owner and editor of The Scout Guide, a guidebook to the best in local, independent businesses, Logan-Curran’s superpower lies in never allowing concepts or conversations around Sarasota’s restaurants and events to grow stale.

Mike Harb,Treasurer

As an accountant, national hospitality consultant and former local restaurant owner for 15 years, Michael Harb’s background uniquely qualifies him to manage the organization’s finances and assist in guiding its operations. Mr. Harb has been a member of the Originals Board for 10 years and is the Co-Chair of their celebrated annual food and wine festival, Forks & Corks.  “I enjoy the opportunity to both collaborate with and shine a light on the local restaurateurs who add a little spice to our beautiful region.”

Emma Kate Silvestri,Secretary

Emma Kate Silvestri marvels how her four years on the Orignals board have flown by. The marketing director for three of Venice’s unique waterfront dining experiences--Sharky’s on the Pier, Fins at Sharky’s and Snook Haven--Silvestri says she feels fortunate to live in dining abundance: “So many of the Originals incorporate special elements unique to our community, whether it’s ambiance, flavors, service, or more.”

D’Arcy Arpke, Founding Board Member

Even with a restaurant as successful as Euphemia Haye, Darcy Arpke and other founding members aimed to ensure their continued success and give up-and-coming restaurants a pathway there. “I wanted the community to understand the importance of sustaining local, independent businesses and to know how their support, in turn, enhances the community,” she says.

Michael Klauber, Founding Board Member

The co-proprietor of Michael’s on East cites Forks & Corks’ inception as a major turning point that gave the Originals a global voice. Reflecting on what the Originals have built, Klauber believes a key benefit of the organization’s success is the ability to be better listeners than ever before. “I think a conglomeration of our members’ wishes and dreams will guide us as we go forward,” he says.

Mark Tuchman, Board Member

Mark Tuchman lends the Originals a new edge in the craft beer realm while he pours his wealth of knowledge and experience into 99 Bottles, downtown Sarasota’s new brew playground. He speaks to the Board’s appreciation of the Originals’ staff: “Through Sarah and Veronica’s vision I see the future of food and beverage experiences in the greater Sarasota area, and I want to be a part of that vision personally.”

Joe Farrell, Board Member

Pop’s Sunset Grill in Nokomis is just one of many successful ventures blessed by Joe Farrell’s Midas-like touch, and his portfolio of past and current companies cuts across industries that ordinarily seem worlds apart. Farrell’s head for big ideas and a fearless problem-solving approach have made him an invaluable advisor to the Olympics and Harvard’s Neurodegeneration Institute alike.

Liza Kubik, Board Member

In her hospitality marketing career, Liza Kubik innovated campaigns for national brands such as Williams-Sonoma and the Ritz-Carlton, as well as The Seafood Shack and other beloved destinations on the local waterfront. “What excites me the most is when a diverse group of local businesses–frequently considered competitors–come together to work towards a commonly recognized goal,” she says. Recently retired, serving on the Board is all about giving back for Kubik.

For more information visit: eatlikealocal.com