Getting to Know Goodman’s Bar’s Dustin Wilson and Austin Johnson

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Photography by Noe DeWitt

Ahead of the new year, Bergdorf Goodman is giving you yet another reason to frequent its men’s store Goodman’s, with the unveiling of a new dining experience on the Second Floor. Enter Goodman’s Bar, a luxury bar and restaurant concepted in partnership with Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson and Michelin-starred chef Austin Johnson, in a marriage of world-class wine expertise and epicurean ambitions with the store’s dedication to service and distinction.

The space was inspired by a mix of architectural details, including the Art Deco exterior façade of the building and the natural greenery found in nearby Central Park, and is accented with décor that ranges from avian photography by Australian artist Leila Jeffreys to vintage Franz Schuster chairs. The menu was expertly curated by Wilson and Johnson, whom we sat down with ahead of the launch to talk about their career paths, how Goodman’s Bar came together, and what would be their last meals. Read the full interview below and visit Goodman’s Bar now at the Men’s Store on 2.

Bergdorf Goodman: Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and your career paths to becoming a Michelin-starred chef and Master Sommelier?

Dustin Wilson: I grew up in Maryland and my interest in wine started forming while working in restaurants growing up. That interest eventually became a full blown obsession and when I left Maryland after college, I moved to Boulder, CO where I started working under Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey who gave me my first sommelier job at his restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine. From there, I never looked back and my career in wine took me to The Little Nell in Aspen, CO, then RN74 in San Francisco where I was mentored by the well known sommelier Rajat Parr. While in SF, I passed my Master Sommelier exam and that pursuit was memorialized in the hit documentary SOMM. I left SF in 2011 to take the role of Wine Director at Eleven Madison Park where I ran and grew that program for 4 years. In 2015 I left to pursue my dream of starting my own business and in 2016 launched Verve Wine, a wine retail company with locations in NYC, San Francisco, with Chicago coming soon. I’ve made wine and hospitality my life and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Austin Johnson: I started working in restaurants at the age of 14 in Omaha, Nebraska. I started as a bus boy and was quickly fascinated by the food that was leaving the kitchen. I had never seen anything like it before. I jumped head first into the industry. I wanted to travel and cook at the best restaurants in the world. That journey took me to Canlis restaurant in Seattle, Eleven Madison Park in New York, Noma in Copenhagen, fishing vessels in Alaska, and to restaurant Frenchie in Paris and London.

BG: How did you both meet and what is the best part about working together?

DW: Austin and I met in Paris at Frenchie Bar-a-Vin. I was on my way home from a visit to the Rhone Valley region of France and my good friend Thomas and I came to Frenchie on our last night in Paris. Chef Austin cooked for us that evening and spent a good amount of time with us at the table. We had a blast and Austin and I stayed in touch from that point forward. I really enjoy working with him because he and I think very similarly and prioritize and care about the same things. We’re obsessed with quality, providing warm hospitality, and making sure our guests have a great time. We also have a blast outside of the restaurant as well and have become great friends. I’m very grateful for that.

AJ: Exactly as Dustin said. It’s a really great story how we worked basically across the street from each other for years but waited until Paris to fully connect.

BG: Can you tell us about the process of developing the menu and wine selection for Goodman’s Bar and what people can expect when they come to dine?

DW: While developing the menu and wine list, we tried to first understand the environment of Goodman’s and the guests that we will likely be welcoming there. We also thought about the ambiance, environment, and vibe. Ultimately, for the wine/beverage program, I wanted to focus on a mix of classic and contemporary wines that show elegance and sophistication while focusing on smaller, artisan wineries rather than big brands. Cocktails will be classic and well made, beer will focus mostly on NY breweries, though we’ll have some from Europe as well, covering all major categories.

AJ: I was lucky enough to be the executive chef of Frenchie restaurants in Paris for three years. On that street we had a small little wine bar that seated about 30 people. It would be packed every night with locals and tourists. The food that we cooked there was very simple, product driven cuisine. Things that you wanted to eat with wine. Also the option to have a snack or a full meal there is something that, as a chef, allowed me to create so many different styles of dishes. Goodman’s bar reminds me of that space in Paris and I would like to continue to create cuisine that is wine friendly, product driven and really delicious.

BG: What are some of your favorite dishes and wines that will be available for guests at Goodman’s Bar?

DW: I’m very excited about all of the wines we are offering but some of my favorite wineries on the list are Dhondt-Grellet Champagne, Domaine des Ardoisieres, Girolamo Russo from Etna, Presqu’ile, Domaine du Pelican, and more.

AJ: I’m really excited about the bacon- English cheddar gougeres with sliced lardo. It has an influence from three very special places to me, Nebraska, Paris and London. Also exciting is the chicken liver mousse with toasted miche and also our desserts program is really delicious.

BG: What do you think makes Goodman’s Bar stand out as a food/wine destination in NYC?

DW: I think Goodman’s Bar is one of the sleekest, sexiest bars in the city. I’m also very proud of the program that we’ve put together here and I think anyone that knows great food and wine will quickly realize when they sit down that this is not just another random bar. This is really something special that could stand up to any other great destination in NYC.

AJ: I would have to agree with Dustin. I think the space is absolutely stunning and its exciting to mix fashion, retail and the restaurant business in such a beautiful space is something I look forward to.

BG: If you could only have one food and wine pairing for the rest of your life, what would that be?

DW: This is a loaded question. My top pairing would be street tacos with Chenin Blanc but if I had to pick from the Goodman’s Bar menu, right now it would have to be the white truffle tagliatelle and a great glass of Barolo.

AJ: Pizza and Sangiovese.

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