GENERAL MANAGER OF FOOD & BEVERAGE
Steve Serdar oversees all food and beverage operations at Ritz Carlton Chicago which includes, deca Restaurant and its adjoining alfresco patio, The dec Rooftop Lounge + Bar and the Banquet and Catering operation.
Serdar, who has been a part of the Sage Restaurant Group establishment for 7 years, knows that great food plays a major role in creating an incredible guest experience. Serdar strives to maintain a surprise-and-delight service culture that regularly fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of diners. “I think the Ritz-Carlton credo expresses it best,” says Serdar of his management philosophy, “our hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of the guest is our highest mission.”
Serdar previously worked with Sage Restaurant Group as the General Manager of Food & Beverage for Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Chicago restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa. Under his supervision, the Catalan-inspired tapas restaurant earned a spot on Esquire Magazine’s coveted “Best New Restaurant” list in 2008. His success with Mercat brought increased responsibility as Sage Restaurant Group’s parent company, Sage Hospitality, promoted him to RegionalDirector of Food & Beverage. During this time, Serdar received the Mentor of the Year award in 2009 for his contribution to the development of SRG management.
In addition to his time with Sage, Serdar has held managerial positions at notable hospitality entities including Hyatt Hotels, Carlucci Hospitality, Masters Restaurant Group, and the Union League Club of Chicago, where he orchestrated the renovation and opening of the Wigwam Steakhouse and helped earn the restaurant the Dirona Distinguished Restaurants of America award.
Serdar lives in Waukegan, IL with his wife and three children. When not working to bring joy and comfort to his guests, Serdar brings joy to his own life by being outdoors. His hobbies include fishing, golfing, riding motorcycles, and renovating older homes.
Baasim Zafar is the Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, bringing an internationally-inspired cooking style to the menus of all on-premise food and beverage outlets including deca RESTAURANT + BAR, located on the hotel’s twelfth-floor lobby, and its adjacent cocktail lounge and bar, THE dec. In addition, Zafar curates all in-room dining and private event menus for the hotel.
Zafar – who is fluent in both Hindi and English and skilled in Spanish – brings a global perspective to deca’s seasonal menu and the hotel’s food and beverage programs. His culinary style blends a classic French training from Le Cordon Bleu in London, England, with influences from his background working in Indian cuisine. This global perspective is further influenced by Zafar’s impressive culinary background working in some of the world’s premier hotels and resorts, including Four Seasons Hotel, London, Café Lazeez, South Kensington, and Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee. Having worked in Chicago’s hospitality community as Executive Chef at The Drake Hotel, The Conrad Chicago, and Executive Sous Chef at the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Zafar’s new position at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago is a welcome homecoming.
Over the course of his twenty year career, Zafar has earned multiple accolades for his work at several high profile hotel restaurants across the globe. During his tenure as Executive Chef at The Drake Hotel, The Cape Cod Room received Chicago Magazine’s 2011 Top Restaurant of All Time award, and while overseeing five star St. Regis New York, the hotel’s King Cole Bar received Virtuoso Luxury Travel’s 2014 “Best Bar In The World” distinction. Zafar also led London’s pioneering Indian Restaurant Café Lazeez to earn the Carlton Restaurant Award distinction as “Best Indian” cuisine in both 1998 and 1999.
When not in the kitchen, Zafar enjoys spending time playing cricket, traveling, reading and studying history.