Three days before Dubai went into lockdown last spring, Sean Smith, who was working at the time as general manager at the second outpost for the Michelin-starred Marea, flew back to the United States. He had spent about a year and a half in Dubai overseeing the restaurant’s opening and planned to return to New York City in June to work on a new project with the same company. Then the pandemic set in.
With his plans to return to New York off the table, he started talking with friend and restaurateur Paul Fleming, who connected him with D’Amico & Partners CEO, Richard D’Amico. “It was our conversations that drew me to Campiello,” Smith says. “The D’Amico brothers have been in the business for over 30 years and designed a great concept.”
Smith and his wife moved down in September and he stepped into the role as general manager at the restaurant. Smith was part of the opening team at Michael White’s flagship New York restaurant, Marea, where he stayed for 10 years before launching the first international location in Dubai. As general manager at Marea, Smith coordinated daily restaurant operations, maintained customer service expectations and managed front- and back-of-house duties. He sees the key to success in his role as knowing “how to best utilize the various skill sets of the team members and understanding how they complement each other,” he says. “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s a matter of focusing on the strengths.” From the diner standpoint, the general manager sets the tone for the experience at the restaurant—and Smith knows how to do this well.
While at Marea, Smith’s management skills helped the restaurant maintain two Michelin stars and earn a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, as well as nominations for Outstanding Service. Working alongside Marea beverage director, Francesco Grosso, who oversaw the extensive list of more than 750 different selections, Smith also honed his wine knowledge. As D’Amico puts it, his “level of style, professionalism and sense of hospitality that is both natural and learned” is what made Smith the perfect candidate for the role at Campiello.
>> Full story in our May issue
Photography by Brian Tietz