ity business, destined to be the sixth
generation of his family to run Gasthaus
Draxler, a 168-year-old inn in Southeastern Austria whose menu depended
on local game and fish that he, his
father and his grandfather caught. In
1998, to see the world before settling
into his fate, he secured his parents’
blessing and signed up for a stint as
wine sommelier on a Crystal Harmony
cruise. But by the time the cruise ended,
he’d met his future wife, Michele, a
10-year veteran of the Rockettes who
was working as a cruise-ship dancer. A
Clifton native, Michele wanted to work
in New York, and Draxler wanted to be
He arrived in the city with nothing but ambition, European hospitality
in his DNA, and a Zagat guide, from
which he drew up a list of fine-dining
restaurants that might employ him.
A cruise-ship guest who’d befriended
him—and who was a Restaurant Daniel
regular—wrote to Boulud, who hired
Draxler as an assistant captain in 1999.
Four months later, he was promoted
to captain. By the time he left Boulud’s
employ, in 2008, he was the maître d’.
Meanwhile, Draxler and Michele had
married in 2005. They lived in Manhattan until 2011, when they moved to
After leaving Daniel, Draxler worked
with an American firm on a real estate
development in the Middle East, but
started to miss the food business. Once
again, he was in the right place at the
right time. A friend at Daniel mentioned
that they hadn’t seen much of Andrew
Hamilton lately. For years, Hamilton
had supplied the restaurant with fresh
game birds and langoustines. Perhaps
Draxler would check in on him.
Hamilton, a Scotsman, had founded
Scottish Wild Harvest in 2002 to export
those two products to the United States.
In 2010, sidelined by a leg injury, he
started to think about slowing down.
Hamilton, a genial, shambling fellow
who’d make a perfect department-store
Santa, recalls the brief conversation
that changed everything.
“Can I help you?” asked Draxler.
“I have a better idea,” Hamilton replied. “You take over the company and
I’ll help you.”
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