Getting ahead in your career is a phrase you probably included in your New Year’s resolutions. However, knowing the steps to get there may take a little extra work than just putting pen to paper. You’ll need to have a contingency plan, have connections, and work your booty off. Yes, you may fail and that’s totally okay because failing means you’re trying something new and you shouldn’t be afraid to learn how to crawl before you can walk, right? Well, if you don’t believe us, you should at least believe today’s Boss Babe. She climbed the business later by exploring new avenues while being kind — plus, she believes “bitchiness is not bossiness,” so you know she means business.
A mother, an owner, and a fashionista are just some of the ways you can describe Natalie Freihon. While she started her career by baking cooking for Mrs. Fields, she’s now the managing partner of The Fat Radish. However, titles ain’t Freihon’s thing. Her legacy involves how she treats her employees and other people, what she teaches her daughter, and how she chooses to love herself. For Freihon, doing what’s right is the concept she thrives on, and that’s probably why she is living her dream life.
New York (Greenwich Village)
Describe your style in three words:
Just look at the advanced style blog. That’s pretty much me at 38.
NYC restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out:
[Eleven Madison Park] since reopening
Best way to spend a day off:
Walking around the city with my daughter eating and shopping…maybe with some champagne and hot chocolate stops.
An accessory you can’t live without:
Things for my head: hats, turbans, and scarves.
A winter dish you could always indulge in:
A show you can’t stop binging:
Currently the Honorable Woman and SMILF.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in the hospitality industry.
I moved to NY for Columbia University. Well, technically, I moved here because I met a guy in Von bar in 2001…then went to Columbia. I studied sociology with a focus in race relations and graduated in a couple of years. I had always worked in restaurants, so [I] continued to do so during my time at Columbia. I was working at Buddakan when I graduated and enjoyed late nights at Park Bar. A friend bartending there offered me a management position in a restaurant he was opening called Mercat. While I liked working in hospitality, I never had dreams of becoming a lifer. But, opening a restaurant changed my mind. I loved it. I loved creating the experience and taking ownership. I felt as if we could change guests’ lives in a small way every day, and I relished in that contribution. I also really enjoyed being able to offer people a fun and safe working environment. And it was FUN! So here we are.
Recently, you’ve been involved with The Fat Radish and Silkstone Hospitality by becoming a managing partner. How did this opportunity come about and what are you hoping to bring to the table for this company and brand?
A few days after I left Soho House, I met Phil through a mutual friend who happens to live in the building where The Fat Radish is located. I was tired of having bosses, to be quite honest, and was ready to find a partnership that made sense. When I met Phil and his partner I just knew it was right. A couple of months after that, we went through a tumultuous time with The Fat Radish. I had been streamlining things there and decided to make an offer to buy out all of the original investors. They counter-offered which resulted in a very hard-fought, month-long negotiation. But now, Phil and I own the restaurant and its brand outright! Phil and I are very interested in expanding—through hotels, consulting, design, and more restaurants.
What do you feel is the most important thing a restaurant owner should be aware of when it comes to managing people and preventing turnover?
Being someone’s boss requires compassion and understanding. There is never a need to yell. It is imperative to provide a positive, constructive and safe working environment. That will keep staff coming back.
In addition to having a flourishing career, you’re also a mother to an adorable daughter. If there’s one thing you want her to remember as she begins to grow up and eventually become a young adult, what would that be?
That respect is important…for one’s self, others, and your environment.
In light of recent events with sexual accusations, what are your thoughts on the hospitality industry itself and the involvement of men in the space and how it has affected your career? Do you currently see a change happening in this space and if not, what do you hope to change and/or want to tell women who may be experiencing harassments in this industry?
This question requires its own article! Harassment, both sexual and verbal, and toxic work environments have pervaded this industry forever. The conversation is, however, changing. Today I look at the things we thought were ok or just “the norm,” and I am appalled. It’s a brilliant time in our industry, as women are feeling safe to come out against this behavior. The #metoo movement has had an enormous impact on us. For myself, personally, I have found it very difficult to be a woman in upper management for various reasons. I have had to make more concessions than I would have liked to get here, i.e. allowing remarks from my seniors that I would never tolerate today. I have fought diligently to protect my staff from these kinds of things, making sure they stopped with me. The best advice I can give anyone (woman or man) experiencing abuse is to speak up. There is no shame in our experiences and one should not be embarrassed to bust it open. Find someone, anyone, who will listen and document it. If it is me that they want to talk to, I’d be thrilled to help.
From beginning your hospitality career as a server to now being a managing partner at The Fat Radish, what is the one thing you could say attested to your success?
I started at Mrs. Fields cookies baking cookies when I was 15. So, serving food runs deep. I have always tried to do the right thing, which is not necessarily the best thing in terms of your bottom line. That has really driven me and my passion for this business. There is so much good we can do and so many lives we can touch. It is incredibly important to take that responsibility seriously. I have thrived on that concept, and it has driven my passion for years.
If you could grab a drink with anyone, anywhere, where and who would it be with?
Anita Hill at Eleven Madison Park. Her bravery has always floored me.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
Owning and operating hotels and restaurants, living in the Village with my family. So pretty much what I’m doing now. I am already living my dream.
Any advice for future boss babes, especially those wanting to enter into the hospitality space?
Bitchiness is not bossiness. Stay classy and above the fray and do the right thing. The respect you deserve and will receive as a result will never be in question and staff will always support you.
Written by Raven Ishak
Photography via Eli Awada