John Stires and Brian Leventhal met years ago while both working at a tech start-up. Through a few extracurricular winemaking outings with co-workers, the two uncovered a shared interest in entrepreneurship which led to their first urban winery concept, Brooklyn Winery. In the end it was their complementary skill sets, shared values, and mutual affinity for new ideas that led them to think bigger with the creation of First Batch Hospitality.
Brian Leventhal - Co-Founder
As co-founder of First Batch Hospitality, Brian strives for continued financial achievement throughout the company with intense focus on both the top and bottom lines. Brian is numbers and data-driven, and focuses on moving the business forward by building out equations for success. He uses that same determination to push his employees to grow in their roles and exceed their own expectations.
Brian’s entrepreneurial spirit was born early, during his time at Washington University in St. Louis. While working toward his Bachelor’s Degree of Science and Business Administration, he founded a successful water delivery business, Wydown Water, which he later sold. Following his graduation, Brian moved to New York City and pursued a career in consulting, first with McKinsey and Company, a leading management consultant company in New Jersey. There he focused on Fortune 500 clients in the pharmaceutical, consumer packaged goods, consumer electronics and government contracting industries.
Post-McKinsey, Brian fatefully joined ExpoTV and led projects to help optimize the company’s internal business processes, managed the finance and human resources departments and helped develop a new research product offering.
Brian currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with his dog, aptly named Brooklyn. He spends as much time as possible outdoors running, hiking, playing golf, tennis and skiing. When indoors, he enjoys cooking, drinking wine, watching his beloved NY sports teams and taking classes on his new Peloton bike.
John Stires - Co-Founder
As co-founder of First Batch Hospitality, John guides the First Batch portfolio toward continued success and growth. Creative and results driven, John looks for each location to have its own unique feel and energy, and challenges employees to ensure that the company’s wine, service, and ambiance are fresh, inventive, and constantly evolving. Mindful that a business is only as good as its team, he believes in unlocking the best in employees while encouraging professional growth and autonomy.
John was previously employed by comic/media publisher Marvel Worldwide Inc. How he found his way into the company is shrouded in mystery, but after seven years he worked his way to a director of creative services role, helping revitalize the global company’s branding and licensing initiatives.
John then joined ExpoTV as a product manager, where he acted as the hub of the company’s product development, managing a multitude of business, marketing, and sales projects.
The native Californian graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1998 and relocated to New York the following year, where he lived for 17 years. He currently resides in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC.
Conor McCormack - Executive Director of Winemaking
As Executive Director of Winemaking, Conor oversees the conception and development of all wine production operations. His creativity and imagination are invaluable not only for the creation of superior quality wines, but also for navigation of the unique challenge of maximizing output of product in much more confined spaces than are typical of this industry. He is focused on implementing strategic growth initiatives, via nationwide grape-sourcing through vineyard relationships and additional production partners, achieving an enormous increase in annual production to over 18,000 cases, up from 2,500 in 2010.
Conor experienced his first harvest in 2003, and was given the prophetic feedback that he was gifted with a natural ability to organize a seemingly chaotic multitude of moving parts into a controlled and elegant production system. Eager to capitalize on that gift, he went on to extract knowledge from well regarded wineries and vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Washington State, before turning his focus to urban winemaking. Intrigued by the idea of disrupting the deep roots of traditional winemaking, Conor, who spent most of his youth in the Bay Area, embarked on stints at wineries in Berkeley and San Francisco. These experiences led him to the founders of Brooklyn Winery in New York in 2010, as they began their venture into an east coast urban winemaking facility.
Conor is deeply dedicated to producing world class wines that showcase unique growing regions and styles, supporting and evolving his winemaking teams, and developing business structures set up for efficient, independent, profitable and scalable operation.
Rachel Sackheim - Chief Revenue Officer
Rachel’s primary goal as CRO is to ensure the success of her teams at each location, driving the overall financial health of the company. Her role capitalizes on her innate ability to problem-solve through leveraging data and analytics. As a manager, Rachel’s philosophy is based, very simply, on listening. The business of hospitality hinges entirely on hearing the client, understanding what they need, and strategically meeting those needs.
Rachel’s passion for food, service and hospitality developed at an early age when she began traveling the world with her family. Following trips to Colombia, England, Israel and Australia, she chose to spend a semester studying in Seville, Spain. That experience during her formative years at the George Washington University led her to focus her studies on both International Business and Hospitality Management.
Rachel developed her foundational sales and marketing skills through advertising positions at Hearst and Condé Nast before turning to the world of hospitality and events. She joined the FBH family via Brooklyn Winery in 2012 for the purpose of building an events business, and her success in doing so led to the growth of the sales team and to her position as a leader within the company. Following several years in sales-specific roles and eventually leading the Brooklyn team as Director of Operations, Rachel stepped into the CRO role, excited and prepared to focus on company-wide growth.
Rachel takes an enormous amount of pride in being a full-time working mom. Her daughter, Remy and her husband, Jeffrey, are the driving forces behind her success and her desire to “do it all”. Rachel still enjoys traveling the world as much as possible, using those experiences to think up new recipes to prepare at home, and dancing those meals off.
Michael Gordon - Corporate Executive Chef
As Corporate Executive Chef, Michael Gordon is the leader of the culinary teams throughout all FBH locations, lending his expertise to menu development across both catering and public-facing concepts. His philosophy for fine food pushes him to use the best ingredients, coupled with classic techniques, with the added application of his own inspiration and innovation. In addition to his unending ability to build creativity and imagination into our ingredient-driven menus, Michael has a keen sense for implementing efficient systems that allow us to maintain a high standard of hospitality throughout all of our operations.
Though he studied Chinese literature at Wesleyan University, Michael’s passion has always resided in the kitchen. Not long after graduating, he followed his dream and graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
He went on to hone his skills in Manhattan, working for Chef David Bouley and subsequently spent 8 years at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, first in their fine dining restaurant, Asiate, and later as Banquet Chef. Michael also spent time creating culinary specialties for multiple start-ups prior to becoming the Executive Chef of Brooklyn Winery.