Celebrity chef and veteran restaurateur David Burke is taking over the food & beverage operations of The Bernards Inn, a 116-year-old property in Bernardsville, N.J., as well as management of its 20 guest rooms, marking his first foray into hotel management.
The agreement is a partnership with the inn’s owner, Hampshire Destination Properties LLC, a subsidiary of The Hampshire Companies.
Burke and his company, David Burke Hospitality Management, will rework the foodservice of the main bar and lounge area, a banquet hall with seating capacity for 200 people, an outdoor patio that seats up to 40, and two restaurants that are still in their conceptualization stages: A 120-seat fine-dining restaurant and a more casual 100-seat space.
The Bernards Inn, which is a AAA Four Diamond property and a recommended hotel in the Forbes Travel Guide, is slated to reopen this fall, although the guest rooms will be renovated at a later date.
In terms of design, Burke said in a press release announcing the takeover that he plans to reflect an equestrian theme appropriate for the area, which is known as “New Jersey Horse Country,” and in line with his Red Horse restaurants in Rumson, N.J., and White Plains, N.Y.
This will be the 19th property under Burke’s management.
“This is one of New Jersey’s greatest, iconic properties.” Burke, himself a New Jersey native, said in a statement. “Our goal is to bring it back to its glory days. We’re looking forward to creating a must-go, top of its class and quintessential dining experience focused totally on the guest experience.”
He added, “I have a great respect for New Jersey’s historic businesses, and I get a kick out of infusing them with new vigor and fun ensuring they continue into the future. When I walk in The Bernards Inn I feel its greatness like an old stadium or theater. I think, wow, if these walls could talk.”
Alex Imperatore, owner and senior real estate manager of The Hampshire Companies, based in Morristown, N.J., said he was pleased with the agreement.
“We are excited to partner with chef David Burke given his excellent reputation for owning and operating numerous award-winning restaurants,” he said. “We feel it is time to raise the bar and infuse The Bernards Inn with new energy and an updated concept. With his culinary achievements, creativity, finesse and solid professional connections, we believe Chef Burke is the right professional to help us achieve our goals.”
Burke has had a long and storied career in restaurants, becoming executive chef of the landmark River Café in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the age of 26. He went on to lead the kitchens of the Smith & Wollensky restaurant group, including Park Avenue Café, Maloney & Porcelli, Cité, the Post House, and others. He went on to open critically acclaimed Davidburke & Donatella among other restaurants in New York City. He is credited with having invented a wide variety of dishes including the swordfish chop and cake pops. His Park Avenue Kitchen is slated to open in Manhattan later this year.
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