When superstar restaurateur Drew Nieporent’s Myriad Restaurant Group decided to open a restaurant, “Icon,” at the W Court hotel in New York, the name Michael Trenk immediately came to mind. Trenk has lived in Manhattan most of his life and his professional success has been intertwined with Nieporent’s. Beginning his career as a manager at the chic Montrachet, Drew’s first restaurant, Trenk helped to establish several other equally fabulous Nieporent establishments such as TriBeCa Grill, Nobu and Layla. In 1989, Nieporent and Robert DeNiro opened the fabled Tri-BeCa Grill and appointed Trenk as day manager, overseeing all purchasing and operations of the nine-million dollar establishment.
The Myriad Group assumed that the young and charming manager would have no problem reproducing the famous relaxed-yet-trendy downtown feeling at the new east midtown restaurant. The area is known most for the United Nations (read: conservative bureaucrats), not dining sublimity, so Trenk feels it is ripe for culinary encroachment. “There is a void of good dining places in the East thirties,” says Trenk, dryly.
Trenk decided to work in the hospitality industry after his second year in college, a move he attributes to growing up in a house where family dinner meant dining out. “My parents were a huge influence. When I was little, we would eat out 365 days a year,” Trenk recalls. “My parents truly appreciated good dining, but until I was a little older I hated it.” After thirteen years in the business, the 32-year-old is once again spending every night in a restaurant. Now, however, he is an authority on both cuisine and ambiance.
Icon opened last November and, to Trenk’s credit, it captures that cool downtown feeling, in a stiff neighborhood. The cuisine is that standard of upscale urbanites — contemporary American with French influences — and is flawlessly executed. While Trenk says he could not be happier with his new enterprise, there is a price to pay for twelve hour days: they have hurt his relationship with his “significant other:” Bailey, a five-year-old Golden Retriever. “He’s named after the drink,” says Trenk. “Not after any character in Party of Five.”
Because of the strict New York City health laws, Bailey is persona non grata at his owner’s workplace. “When he was a puppy, sometimes I managed to sneak him in my bag,” says Trenk. “But now that he is that big. . . it is just impossible.”
Working at least a dozen hours a day between the newly-opened Icon and at Prohibition, the Upper West Side boite which he co-owns, Trenk still finds time to keep Bailey from feeling neglected. “I walk him in the mornings before I come to work and late at night, when I get back,” he says. In between, Trenk does what all busy puppy-parents do — he hires a dog-walker. In the summer both owner and dog enjoy themselves at Central Park where Trenk plays softball and Bailey makes friends. “Softball is my thing to do,” Trenk says. “I take it very seriously. In the summer I travel around the country with the team.”
Only one thing comes between Trenk and his retriever — lunch. While Trenk is in the upscale restaurant business, Bailey prefers to dine on an old favorite – the Big Mac. Trenk has come to terms with Bailey’s hankering for hamburgers, and tries to make up for the culinary faux pas by making his doggie’s burgers as healthy as possible, using 100 percent lean ground beef. “It is just a little treat,” Trenk reinforces. “I try to avoid it as much as I can and only give him quality dry food,” Trenk explains. “But whenever I am not paying enough attention, he attacks my leftovers.”