Neal Bodenheimer is the Managing Partner of CureCo, the acclaimed group behind Cure, the James Beard Foundation Award Winner for “Outstanding Bar” in 2018, Cane & Table, and VALS in New Orleans. He is a partner of newly opened Dauphine’s in Washington, DC and operator of newly opened Peychaud’s at the hotel Maison de Ville. In addition to all these titles, he serves as the Co-Chair of Tales of the Cocktail’s Board of Directors.
Here are 5 Minutes / 5 Questions with entrepreneur, Neal Bodenheimer:
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina you moved back to New Orleans. What has living through a natural disaster (and now a global health crisis) taught you about teamwork and collaboration?
NB: When I moved back home to New Orleans at the end of 2006 it was 16 months after Hurricane Katrina and the city was reeling. The reality of the rebuild was setting in and most people were not in a great mental space. The same thing has happened during the pandemic. The world feels forever altered and for the first time in a very long time it feels like things we took for granted may never return to normal. How do you navigate a world when it feels like the ground is constantly shifting beneath your feet?
I think we all see how important other people are to our happiness and to our success. We live in communities and we do this because we all have strengths and weaknesses; we all require help from other humans. After Hurricane Katrina our community needed help from outside our city limits and from each other. The pandemic has reinforced that we can’t do it alone. We need our teams more than ever, our guests more than ever, and particularly the mental and emotional support that our friends and family provide.
This Spring, you opened Dauphine’s (DC) and this summer you opened Peychaud’s (New Orleans). You also serve as Co-Chair of Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. What are 3 keys to integrating your work-life successfully?
NB: 1. Great teams. You can’t multitask if there aren’t great teams supporting you and moving initiatives forward while you’re engaged in new projects.
2. Think small. Counter-intuitive, right? Big things are done piece by piece, so don’t get overwhelmed by how much there is to do. Spend a little time on each project every day and soon your small tasks will turn into big wins.
3. Communication. Lack of communication in organizations is akin to rotten wood in a house. Your house can stand for a while with rotten wood, but it won’t stand for long. Communication tools like Slack are critical to keep the communication flowing, because you and your teams are only as good as the information that you have to make decisions.
New Orleans has served as your inspiration all these years, why do you think it’s important to give back to your community?
NB: My love of New Orleans runs deep and my family has been in Louisiana since the mid-1800’s. I feel very lucky to have been born into a unique culture, but I also know that you have to be willing to work to keep that culture going. New Orleans has always been a strong community and thus it has always been ingrained in me and so many other native New Orleanians that you must give back to the community that gives you so much.
What is your advice for beverage enthusiasts looking to make their mark in the industry?
NB: Focus on quality. Experimentation is fun, but don’t become enamored with gimmicks, because your drinks will ultimately be judged by how they taste and smell, and not by how they look and how cool the preparations are.
My book, The Love List changed my life. What are the top three characteristics on your Love List (characteristics or qualities you are looking for in a potential mate or current mate)?
*Neal is happily married to wife, Kea Sherman. They have a daughter + dog together and live in New Orleans, LA.