Lessons Learned: A Live Storytelling Event

Join HRN and TD Bank for Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners, a live storytelling event in New York City at the Tilit NYC Showroom.


Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners, A Live Storytelling Event

Food business owners and operators will share candid industry insights at Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners, a live storytelling event at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, at the Tilit NYC Showroom in New York City, located at 64 Allen Street, Second Floor, New York, NY, 10002.

It will be a night filled with industry camaraderie, career advice, honest and humorous anecdotes, and, of course, great food and drink. Hear stories of triumph or defeat and moments of enlightenment and bafflement. Get a close look at the lessons learned by food business owners and find inspiration in their stories, successes, and experiences in the challenging field of food entrepreneurship. The event will also be recorded live for an HRN podcast.

Chef and host of HRN’s The Line, Eli Sussman, will moderate the event, with hosting by Tilit owners and HRN’s Opening Soon hosts, Jenny Goodman and Alex McCrery, plus TD Bank‘s VP of Diverse Business Development Strategy, Steven Garibell.

One lucky attendee will win a business advisory session and lunch with TD Bank NYC Market Leadership and their Economist. 

Delicious food by Samesa and fantastic drinks are included with your free ticket, but seating is extremely limited and registration is required to attend.

Moderator and Hosts

Eli Sussman on HRN's Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners Eli Sussman is the host of HRN’s The Line where he interviews chefs and restaurateurs. He is also the Owner of Samesa Restaurant located at 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. He was a 2014 semifinalist for the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award and was selected as a 2012 Zagat NYC’s 30 under 30. He has co-authored four cookbooks and has contributed to Saveur and Food & Wine. He has appeared multiple times on The Today Show, on The Food Network, and in Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, People, GQ, and Details. He has been involved as a chef advocate with the childhood hunger charity Share Our Strength for 12 years. He makes hospitality industry memes from his account @thesussmans and has over 48,000 followers.

Steven Garibell at Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners, A Live Storytelling EventSteven Garibell is a TD Bank vice president who heads up the business development efforts for the LGBTQ+ community, with responsibilities not only for bringing the bank’s services to enterprises owned by members of the community but also working to ensure that TD is the top employer of LGBTQ+ professionals in the industry. In addition to this role, he has founded and leads the Community Business Development Officer Team with a goal of helping be a trusted advisor and bringing equitable access of resources to our diverse business community. At TD he is a member of the LGBTQ2+ Diversity Leadership team and helps work on the bank’s ESG initiatives. As part of his community outreach, he works in delivering business and community development into LGBTQ markets and diverse neighborhoods and leverages his skills and experience in professional networking through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. At NGLCC, he is a member of the Certification Committee that verifies that participating enterprises are LGBTQ-owned and operated. That certification, in turn, helps business owners gain access to supplier diversity initiatives at larger corporations and select City and State government offices looking to purchase the goods and services they offer. Animating Garibell’s career is the belief that everyone should have a chance to be successful, no matter what their background is. Based on that view, he works to drive positive change through working collaborations that enrich the lives of the community and its talented entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Alex McCrery and Jenny Goodman of Tilit on HRN's Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners Jenny Goodman & Alex McCrery are the co-hosts of HRN’s Opening Soon, a weekly show all about how to open restaurants where they interview some of the world’s best chefs and restaurateurs. Alex McCrery is the Founder and Creative Director of Tilit NYC. Alex began work on Tilit after an 18+ year career as a chef working in restaurants including Commander’s Palace, Aureole, and Antonucci. Alex opened Goods restaurant in the summer of 2010 Along with 2 partners. Prior to launching Tilit Chef Goods, Alex spent 4 years as the private chef to Jerry Seinfeld’s family. Jenny Goodman is the Co-Founder of Tilit NYC and CEO. Jenny and Alex met while Jenny was working her way through Tulane University’s undergraduate program at Commander’s Palace. Since then, Jenny led a career in the pharmaceutical industry prior to going back to her love of the hospitality industry with Goods and then Tilit. She earned her MBA from NYU Stern in order to further her skills as operating partner in Tilit NYC.


Yajaira Gonzalez of Pop & Pour NYC on HRN's Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners Yajaira Gonzalez was born in Caracas, Venezuela to Dominican parents and raised on Dyckman Street by a single mother. Prior to opening Pop + Pour, Yajaira studied business and accounting at Bronx Community College. After working for a Pittsburgh-based financial institution, Yajaira decided to go into business for herself. Today, Yajaira is the proud owner of Pop+Pour, a new kind of restaurant inspired by historical elements of Latin culture that is built into the wine, beer, spirits list, and the tapas they serve. She has been involved with Divas Leading and Latinas y Lideres who empower and inspire girls under-resourced in the Dominican Republic. Through the collective, Yajaira has sponsored dinners for female cancer patients, donated boxes of food and supplies to Venezuela and Puerto Rico, and has supported work by other community nonprofits. She is also a member of the Inwood Merchant Association whose mission is to preserve the existing businesses in Inwood and to educate the business community and represent it. As a mother of two young boys, 18 and 6 years old, Yajaira finds herself most fulfilled when her family is happy and healthy. When she isn’t in wine world, she spends her free time learning new skills. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Yajaira continues to work hard and is always leading by example.

Eric Huang of Pecking House on HRN's Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners Eric Huang grew up in a Chinese-American restaurant in New York, a very common tale in the Chinese diaspora. He is an amateur cellist turned subpar college student turned chef. Despite investing many years and taking on crushing student debt to become a college-educated professional, he would return to work in restaurants because that’s where he felt most at home. He has been cooking in New York City for the last decade, honing his craft at Michelin-starred institutions such as Cafe Boulud, Gramercy Tavern, and most recently as a sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. His dream was to open his own restaurant that would challenge the Western world’s prejudices against Chinese cuisine, but he encountered a minor obstacle in the spring of 2020. When his family’s restaurant, Peking House, shuttered due to the pandemic, he stepped in to do what he could and started frying chicken and delivering it to New Yorkers trapped in their apartments. This became wildly more successful than anyone planned on it being and thus Pecking House was born. He is now a fried chicken dealer in a restaurant landscape figuring out its direction in the wake of the pandemic. He has fully embraced the fast-casual restaurant life because it’s fun, it’s tasty, and you can put food on disposable plates.

Johnny Spero on HRN's Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners Johnny Spero was born and raised in Maryland. Johnny began his culinary career at the young age of 16. Early on, he had the opportunity to work alongside James Beard award-winning Chef Johnny Monis, learning that the best restaurants fine-tune every aspect of the experience— not just the food. Just two years later, Spero was staging at Noma in Copenhagen, which revolutionized his understanding of sourcing and preparing high-quality ingredients. Upon returning to the U.S., Spero worked at Chef John Shields’ acclaimed fine-dining restaurant, Town House, before eventually finding a role as the Executive Chef at José Andrés’ Minibar in D.C. During his tenure, Minibar received a four-star review from Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema and Spero was celebrated as the Eater Chef of the Year. He also represented D.C. as one of ten contestants on the Netflix competition The Final Table. Never one to stop learning, Spero then returned to Europe to stage at Mugaritz, a top-ten contender for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants whose playful presentation and creativity inspired Johnny to begin planning a restaurant of his own. Opened in October 2018, Reverie is the result of more than ten years of daydreaming, an intimate and personal expression of Spero’s travels and talents.

Claire Sprouse on HRN's Lessons Learned: Tales from Small Business Owners Claire Sprouse has bartended, managed, and consulted at some of the country’s most well-known and awarded cocktail institutions, from Houston to San Francisco, and now New York City. She opened her first bar, Hunky Dory in Brooklyn, New York in 2019, followed by Buddy in San Francisco, California in 2021. For over the last decade of her hospitality career, Sprouse has worked vigorously to address the industry’s influence on climate change, with a focus on educating and consulting on sustainable practices for audiences around the globe. Her commitment to these goals has been recognized by many, including Tales of the Cocktail with a Sustainable Spirit Award in 2015 and a Golden Spirit Educator Award in 2016, by Southern Foodways Alliance with the Future of the South Fellowship in 2020, and by Drinks International with Bar World 100 of the Most Influential Figures, in 2019, 2020, and 2021.