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TUXEDO HOSPITALITY


Love what
you do.
Do what
you love.

Tuxedo Hospitality, 2022 AD

Seneca

Starting from left: Eddy Buckingham, Jeff Lam, Paul Donnelly, and Andrew Lam

The team behind acclaimed New York City restaurants Chinese Tuxedo, Peachy's, and Tyger discuss the formula behind their work, and their new concept SoSo, opening this April.

Words by Co-founders
Jeff Lam & Eddy Buckingham,
Chef Paul Donnelly,
and Finance Director Andrew Lam in conversation with Seneca.

Seneca

The Tyger restaurant, 1 Howard St, New York, NY 10013

Seneca

Paul and Andrew wear the Forma Jacket, Paul and Eddy wear the Modena Shirt, Jeff wears the Aero Half-Zip

One of our real strengths is that we had each built very different careers in hospitality.

Paul: I was actually born and raised in Scotland. I spent the first three years of my career working in the fine dining field for some of the best chefs in the world. And then just naturally as a chef who wants to broaden their horizons across the world, I was like “Okay, where can I go that is incredibly far away, where I can be exposed to ingredients that I've never seen before?”. I'm going to go to Sydney. Not a day goes by where I don't pinch myself to say that was one of two, most important decisions in my life. There I was exposed to these super talented, authentic chefs from Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific. And for me, it was just pretty much a nosedive right in. So I worked in restaurants from Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Thai. Spent time in Bangkok. Then to take a jump back over the pond to New York when Eddy and Jeff reached out - that was the second of the most important decisions I ever made.

Eddy: And Andrew, with his background in corporate finance keeps the train on the track. It's all well and good for us to have big ideas… but to make that into a business is a different story.

Andrew: Everyone brings their own life experiences and perspectives to the table. My father, Jeff, raised me and we share a lot of similar values, but I've taken a different path in life focusing on financial management. And now I've come back and bought my unique experiences and skills. I think everyone has that to contribute and I think that's what makes everyone special. That's a very important part of why our team works so well together.
Seneca

Eddy wears the Modena Shirt in Navy, Jeff wears the Aero Half-Zip in Grey

Jeff: I’ve always been building and developing restaurants. I met Eddy when he came to America as an imported general manager from Sydney. He worked in a bar I had built. I thought wow look at this guy so young, so handsome!

Eddy: Yes, so handsome!

Jeff: I invited Eddy for dinner to a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. He talked about Australia, New York, China, everything. He grew up in Singapore, and really understood Asian food and history. I was so impressed! We had a good connection. So we said maybe we should do a restaurant together.

Eddy: I came from more of a nightlife background. I came up in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia and then Sydney, mostly in music venues and cocktail bar environments. And I was doing front line operations, mostly, managing services and managing venues. Either way I would've been spending all my time in those spaces, spending money, so why not make it a career? That’s where I met Chef Paul, whose food vision, execution, and kitchen leadership really made him that straw that stirs the drinks at those venues.
Seneca

Eddy wears the Modena Shirt in Navy

Restaurants are two things. They're food and people.

Eddy: Doesn't matter if it's the world's fine dining temples or the place we love down the road as a kid. We strive to ensure that our food is compelling, interesting, best in category… but it's about the people. From your partners first and foremost, to the first person to open the place through the kitchen prep in the morning. And then ultimately through your guests and patrons.

Jeff: Its really important what Eddy was talking about. We're not just going into business for money. We want to create a place that is happy for customers. Not only that, we want to help create a lifestyle for every person in our team. Make sure all our staff is happy, able to take vacation, live a good life. This is the kind of place we want.

Andrew: It flows down, right? From the kitchen, my mom says, you always cook out of love and happiness. And it's the same with every part of the business. If the team approaches things from a place of love and happiness, it translates all the way through to the best experience.

You can only make a career in restaurants work if you love restaurants.

Eddy: This particular business, if you're doing it singularly for the money, you would not do it. That goes for all of us... From the kitchen, from the construction, concept and operations to the finances. Logistically, it's ridiculously complex. It's ridiculously competitive. Yes, it can be lucrative to varying degrees. But to do it, to do what we are doing, it has to come from a place of passion and love. There's myriad other things you do that are more simple. Require less human capital. The size of teams, compare it to the revenues, the complexity of the logistics. And that we are bringing in spoilable product from multiple vendors that we repurpose on the daily, no guarantee of volumes or per head spends and the like. You only do it if you love it.
Seneca


We talk to each
other as family.
From the heart,
as a human.
It's not about negotiating.

Jeff: That is the most important quality in a partnership. A lot of people make that mistake. Think that everything is solved just by negotiating all the time. No you don't. You always use your human qualities, it's like a family. That's what I've learned from my Chinese tradition. So even if we, when we talk to landlord to do a lease, we talk to them, we don't need to negotiate. Once you start negotiating, everything is about money. But I think at the end of day, you go to any business, your partner, your landlord, they want to be human. That is the essence of hospitality.
Paul: We all have the same vision. We all consider ourselves to be on the same page. Of course we go back and forth, and have different opinions, but the first foremost thing is that we all are engaged and really care about what it is we're doing.
Eddy: And it's what makes a restaurant, whether it be fine dining or the local spot on the corner, you just want kindness. Love in the food, love of your team members, love of the guests. Whether you win or lose or whatnot, when you pick the path of kindness, you're never going to have cause for regret.
Seneca

It's not the end of the world. Don't worry. Just do what you believe in with passion. That's the kind of mentality that we have.

Jeff: With Tyger, we were 5 months into build when the shutdown happened. We didn’t know what the world would look like. COVID rules kept changing day by day. But we knew everybody's suffering. People are home... going crazy. We got to do something. Let's open it up. Let's do the best we can. Let's build the best outdoor space, spend the money. Everybody will come back to the city. Let's show them something. Show some hope.

Eddy: Actually, it’s a funny story. Initially our outdoor dining setup was more rudimentary than we know it to be today. That being said, if we wanted this space to be compelling, we had to treat it like a dining room. So we wanted to open the best pods. And this was September 2020, so it was a brand new thing. With opening any restaurant, it's a mad rush right up to the end. It's 10:30pm before launch and Andrew and I, last two, just finished installing canvas roofing on the pods. And it starts raining. Biblical rain. There must have been a thousand gallons of water, like a swimming pool.

Andrew: I'm on the phone with my Dad, and then the next thing you know, we started hearing cracking and Eddy's like, "Mate, get out there." And we run out and just watch the crash….

Jeff: I say, "Guys, sit tight. I'll be right there." Eddy was soaking wet. Andrew was soaking wet. In pouring rain we took apart the pods and re-assembled. We just laughed at the situation. "Eddy, you know what?" I said, "You see more waters coming down mountains." Because in Chinese tradition, water represents the flowing of money. I say, "It means so much money coming, we can't even handle it."

Andrew: And the next day we opened to 80 people. It was ridiculous it was our first ever service and it was all outside. We could have seen that as a disaster… but we adapted and overcame. And had some fun while doing it.
Seneca

Our North Star in creating a new concept, is it somewhere that we'd want to go regularly?

Eddy: Ultimately every venue to date, every concept, be they the restaurants, be they the more bar propositions. First and foremost, are we really interested in doing it? Is it something that is compelling? The key is to create a space we’d want to hang in, and food we’d want to eat.

Jeff: That was what Chinese Tuxedo was born of. It was really Eddy and I were talking a lot about the restaurants from Beijing, Shanghai that I knew, from Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney that were special. We wanted to celebrate the history of Chinatown, the history of the space. I just feel so happy…

Andrew: I don't think we would ever open a venue that we wouldn't go to regularly. That we wouldn’t crave when we’re away on vacation. Be proud to take our friends to.

Paul: It's funny. We often talk about the restaurant ideal concepts and stuff. And I always say, I don't think I ever want to cook anything other than what it is that I'm good at doing. Our cuisine doesn’t map to just one place in Asia. It's a mix of what we want to eat. I remember a conversation I had with Eddy very early on into the life of Chinese Tuxedo was, we're going to do more. We're going to get bigger. And it was more of just fucking cook what you want to cook. For me to be able to put on a plate what I love Is the way that I interpret my engagement to the guest.

SoSo, short for South Soho bar, opening April 2022 next to Tyger, is going to be very different.

Seneca

Eddy: It's a departure for us, something we haven't done before. We all actually live not far from Tyger in SoHo, and you’d think there would be a classic and reliable bar in this area. But, if you take out the hotel bars and you take out the restaurant bars in terms of a quality cocktail, somewhere that you can go in and know you're going to get ice cold pitch, perfect Martini. Or a super cold beer. And whether you want to pair that with a little food, oysters or a spectacular Wagyu slider. There actually isn’t a place straight up like that. That's the kind of bar we're interested in being in. We just happen to have a world class chef in charge of the food and we're in one of the best neighborhoods on the planet, South SoHo.
Paul: It’s a great opportunity for me to express myself and come from working at the back of the house, where the engagement of me to a guest is a lot more minimal, to being right in front of the guests.
Seneca
LOVE IN THE FOOD,
LOVE OF YOUR TEAM,
LOVE OF THE GUESTS.
PICK THE PATH
OF KINDNESS.
TUXEDO HOSPITALITY, 2022 AD

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Modena Shirt

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Lumen Shirt

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  • 39"
  • 41"
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  • 28 3/4"
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  • 30 1/2"
  • Sleeve Length
  • 24 3/4"
  • 25 1/4"
  • 26 1/2"
  • 27"
  • Shoulder Width
  • 17 1/2"
  • 18"
  • 18 1/2"
  • 19"

Aero Half Zip

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  • 41"
  • 43"
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  • 27 3/4"
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  • 29 1/2"
  • 30 1/2"
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  • 23 1/2"
  • 24 1/2"
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  • 26"
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  • 18 1/4"
  • 18 3/4"
  • 19 1/2"
  • 20"

Forma Blazer

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  • 28 1/2"
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  • 29 3/4"
  • 30 1/4"
  • Sleeve Length
  • 24"
  • 24 1/2"
  • 26"
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  • Shoulder Width
  • 17 1/2"
  • 18 3/4"
  • 19 1/2"
  • 20"

Vanta Pant

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  • 29 1/2"
  • 31 1/2"
  • 34 1/2"
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  • 39 1/2"
  • 40"
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  • 29 1/2"
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Atlas Short

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  • 7"
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  • 9 1/2"
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Lumen Shortsleeve Shirt

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  • 41"
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  • Sleeve Length
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  • 9 3/4"
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  • Shoulder Width
  • 17 1/2"
  • 18"
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Cortina Longsleeve Knit

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  • 43"
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  • 48"
  • Back Length
  • 25 1/2"
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  • Sleeve Length
  • 23 1/2"
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  • 26"
  • Shoulder Width
  • 18 1/4"
  • 18 3/4"
  • 19 1/2"
  • 20"
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