Named one of the 50 best chefs in New York City in 2014, by FOOD & WINE magazine, Sarah Simmons is the CEO of CITY GRIT Hospitality Group, the founder of the CITY GRIT brand and Executive Chef/Owner of Birds & Bubbles.
In 2010, she was named “America’s Home Cook Superstar” by FOOD & WINE magazine as part of its search for the nation’s best home cook. This recognition inspired her to leave the corporate world to pursue cooking full-time and focus on bringing the CITY GRIT concept to market.
Since opening CITY GRIT Culinary Salon in September 2011, Sarah has been recognized as an influencer and tastemaker in the industry and acknowledged for both her culinary and business talent. In 2012, she was once again recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of “America’s Best New Cooks” alongside nine other chefs including Mike Solomonov and Alex Stupak.
In 2013, she was recognized by the Charleston Wine + Food Festival as a “New & Notable” chef, and was named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company magazine, which called her “the chef cooking up the most exciting dining experience in New York.”
Though CITY GRIT was recognized as “One of the Most Innovative Restaurants in the Country” by Zagat in 2014, the company evolved into a lifestyle brand for culinary enthusiasts reach through its events, food writing, and food product lines at Williams-Sonoma and became the management company formed to operate the brand, as well as Simmons' future concepts.
Sarah’s full-service concept, Birds & Bubbles, opened in 2014 earning her numerous accolades including three stars from Time Out NY, two stars from Adam Platt, New York Magazine’s extremely discerning food critic, and recognition by the 2017 NYC Michelin Dining Guide.
In 2015 she opened Rise Gourmet Goods & Bakeshop, her first counter-service concept in her hometown of Columbia, SC, earning “Best New Restaurant” by the readers of The Free Times Newspaper.
In 2017, Simmons relocated the CGHG companies to Columbia, SC to focus on economic development, workforce training, and community growth in the city where she serves on the city’s Food Policy Council and is spearheading a Hospitality Workforce Development Training program for non-college bound youth from high poverty areas.
In March of 2018, Simmons opened the Cafe at Richland Library, alongside her husband, Aaron Hoskins. Their next project, Small Sugar - an all-day cafe, will open in the late summer of 2018.
In addition to running the day-to-day of CGHG, Simmons frequently makes appearances at food festivals and events across the country and is a recurring guest judge on Food Network competitive cooking show, Beat Bobby Flay.
Culinary Director, Partner
Chef Aaron Hoskins started his culinary career after relocating to Richmond, VA in 2008, working his way through some of the city’s best restaurants, including Comfort and Secco Wine Bar.
In a city heralded for its dedication to the terroir of the Shenandoah Valley and to classic southern foodways, Aaron embraced the region’s agricultural bounty and focused not on classic “meat and three” but on his passion for elegant and simple European cuisine, while continuing to draw inspiration from the Virginia ingredients, as well as his familial ties to rural Kentucky and Southern Ohio.
In 2013, Aaron joined Johnny Maher as the Executive Chef of The Rogue Gentlemen, a cocktail bar and restaurant where he accumulated numerous accolades, including a glowing four-out-of-four star review from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Commanding a small two-person team at The Rogue Gentlemen, Aaron served dynamic, seasonal food and ever-changing tasting menus that Former -The Washingtonian Dining Editor Todd Kliman found to be “unimprovable” and “composed, beautiful, and exacting.” Further, Richmond Magazine proclaimed the food was equal to that of “any first-rate food Mecca on the map” and The Local Palate stated that “this fellow will wow you.”
While cooking at Indie Chef’s Week in Austin, TX, Aaron forged relationships with some of the most accomplished up-and-coming chefs in the country, including two 2015 Food & Wine Best New Chefs and fellow industry stalwarts, including Justin Severino leading him to leave Virginia and The Rogue Gentlemen for Pittsburgh, PA to join Severino as the Chef de Cuisine of Cure Restaurant, a Bon Appétit Best New Restaurant in 2012.
In October of 2015, Aaron joined CGHG as the Culinary Director leading the menu development of the restaurant group’s concepts.
EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF, Partner
Nicole Storey has been baking, cooking, decorating and entertaining since she was a child. It was only natural that she pursue a career in hospitality – which included posts in corporate event planning, cultural affairs, wedding planning and design, private catering and restaurant consultation. For many years, as a single mother working full-time to support her daughter Isabel, baking was as much a source of extra income as it was a form of meditation. She daydreamed of starting a business – opening a cupcake shop or starting a catering company her way – but it seemed out of reach for a long time.
The concepts for Izzabee’s Confectioneries were borne out of many late nights in a kitchen covered with flour and countless weekends spent in a tiny apartment with mother and daughter baking morning til night because it’s what they did, it’s what they always did, and it made them happy.
Nicole brings her leadership and confection expertise to the CGHG team by leading the company’s Research & Development efforts, guiding the baking teams across all brands, and developing curriculum for the CGHG’s Workforce Development Program’s baking track.
CHEF De cuisine, Partner
Elie began his career as a dishwasher in NYC restaurants. When one of the cooks at Michelin-starred Public didn’t show up for work one day, Elie told the chef he could break down the fish. When the chef asked if he had ever done it before, Elie simply answered “No, but I have watched him do it for six weeks.” After perfectly fileting the fish, Elie began his career as a prep cook.
When Elie joined the prep team at Birds & Bubbles, Sarah pulled him aside and told him she saw great potential in him. After joining the kitchen team full time, Elie has been promoted from Prep Cook to Line Cook to Line Lead to Junior Sous Chef to Sous Chef and is currently the Chef de Cuisine at Birds & Bubbles.
Not only is Elie a key member of the CHGH culinary team, but in 2019 he will be the first of the CGHG team to become a partner in the business.