Hugo Uys | Entrepreneur & Chef
Johannesburg native Hugo Uys has planned galas and events for clients including Marc Jacobs, George Soros, Susan Sarandon and the United Nations. He was the co-host of the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the ending of Apartheid in New York City, and represented the South African Tourism bureau in the New York City Food and Wine Festival.
I Am Driven By | The opportunity to try something new, master it and change the way it’s done.
My Highlights | I seem to have crafted a career that may seem haphazard to some, but it’s that exact willingness to try, to discover that has made me the culinary astronaut I so proclaim to be today.
After a brief stint at University and its inherent rigor and structure, I took the option to self-sustain my growing apt for design and mold-free creativity, by creating my own line of made to measure gowns—and having the opportunity to sponsor and dress both Miss World and Miss Universe in South Africa.
I took this knowledge of fashion to the U.S., but carved out a new market for it: high-end pet accessories. Being a first-mover in the industry in the mid-90s, I distributed my line internationally, selling at Federated, Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue. I also collaborated with designers such as Donna Karen, and teamed with Nadia Swarovsky to co-create the world’s most expensive dog coat.
It was throughout this path that I realized that my true sense of enjoyment came from the interactions I had with my clients: in restaurants and around the dinner table at home.
When the opportunity arose for me to purchase a then 30-year-old West Village establishment, I took it. I brought Paris Commune from its original 35 seat setting on Bleeker Street, to a 120 seat restaurant in its final iteration on Bank Street. All the while, also owned and ran a New American Bar in the West Village: Shag.
My most recent discoveries have led me to consulting for the hospitality industry—sharing my knowledge of the restaurant business through my own experiences in the field. I currently work at restructuring and opening restaurants—through raising capital and performing financial due diligence.
And of course, I continue to cook.
The Difference Between Good And Great | The difference stems from the ability to really own our work. I feel that people invested in the success of their projects usually find success.
A Key Talent | I don’t like to follow the book. I cook by taste, without worrying about what necessarily has to go into a dish. This has made it easier for me to bring South African taste profiles to people over here—it’s about melding what tastes inherently South African with what’s inherently local.
The Meaning Of Life | To acknowledge the finality of it and enjoy the present.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Ask yourself, why are you doing this?
Advice On Building Wealth | Careers come from passions, not the other way around.
On Inspiring Others | Everyone is capable of great work; the key is to establish attainable goals and reward success.
I Am Inspired By | Claus Meyer is a great role model of mine. He’s a self-made individual who has a strong ideology: of being self-sustainable and biodynamic. Basically being aware and using what’s in your direct environment. He is never afraid of trying something different.