President and Office Director of All Projects + Accounts
With thirty years of experience as a public relations executive in the high-end hospitality industry, Simone Rathlé is highly respected in the field and her firm is one of the country’s top independently owned public relations and marketing agencies promoting tourism and hospitality. Her Washington, DC-based media consulting firm, simoneink, is known for its cultivated, select roster of clients in the hospitality arena specializing in contemporary and historic hotels, exclusive resorts and spas, award-winning chefs and mixologists, distinguished restaurateurs, specialty products, and distinctive destinations. The firm prides itself on its commitment to giving back to the community through representation of select non-profit associations. Ms. Rathlé’s experience has spanned the United States, Caribbean, Canada, and Western Europe. Named one of the Best 20 PR Firms in Washington, DC, in 2017 and 2018 by Expertise, simoneink is proud of its superior client retention rates, and has helped numerous valued clients grow over the course of more than a decade together.
Currently, simoneink’s roster features the popular eateries of James Beard Award cookbook finalist and television personality chef David Guas. Ms. Rathlé has helped Guas develop his vision of establishments capturing the culture and tastes of the South in metropolitan DC: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, which opened in 2010 in Arlington, Virginia, and Lil’ B, in Washington, DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood. These homey, Southern gathering places hold plenty of vintage Louisiana character. Guas and his sweet and savory concoctions have been featured many times over, from Oprah Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Today Show and CBS’ The Talk.
Another of Washington's most renowned chefs has graced simoneink’s client list for more than ten years: Robert Wiedmaier, award-winning chef-owner of Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, three Mussel Bar & Grille locations, Siren, Wildwood Kitchen, Lock 72, and Villain & Saint, the music venue in Bethesda, MD, and the restaurant in Atlantic City, NJ. Wiedmaier is distinguished not only by his fine French and hearty Flemish cuisine, but also in his role as a full-circle chef, whose approach to preparing distinctive dishes is informed by his passion for hunting and fishing. His premier restaurant, Marcel’s, received the highest honor from Zagat Survey, as the top choice for food in the Washington, DC metro area, rating 3.5 stars in 2015. Marcel’s has been honored by continual inclusion in Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s annual selection of personal favorite restaurants, and has added to his list, Siren at the hip Darcy Hotel near DC’s Logan Circle, which features Wiedmaier’s playful culinary approach with a focus on seafood reeled in from the world’s waterways.
Bourbon Steak, also a distinguished client on the DC roster, aligns with simoneink’s continued focus on representing establishments with unique signature style and culinary vision. Here, it comes from James Beard award-winning chef and internationally renowned restaurateur, Michael Mina. Located within the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel, the restaurant features contemporary American fare with a strong focus on seasonally foraged ingredients, which influences chef Drew Adams’ artisanal approach to each dish – if domestic meats or the fresh catch of the day. Its bar is known for its masterful concoctions by their seasoned mixologist, Sarah Rosner.
Simoneink is proud to represent Occidental Grill & Seafood, a high-profile Washington landmark, just a stone’s throw from The White House, that has recently emerged from a savvy renovation. In the kitchen, executive chef Jake Addeo, previously at Bibiana, has taken a conventional steakhouse menu and ushered it respectfully into Washington's new era as a global dining destination, and the legendary bar now features the handcrafted artisanal cocktails of bar manager Frankie Jones. The distinctive qualities – from its endless portraits of notable figures, to the daily who’s who seated at that one special table – have long marked Occidental Grill & Seafood as the reigning power dining room of America's capital city.
Gina Chersevani, Washington’s larger-than-life entrepreneurial drinks mixtress relies on the PR expertise of simoneink as she launches the highly anticipated second location of Buffalo & Bergen on Capitol Hill, and prepares to release her own Bloody Mary mix. Chersevani’s ultra-creative craft cocktails, syrups, and bitters established her as a sought-after consultant on the bar and restaurant scene; at her own venture, Buffalo & Bergen in DC’s Union Market, she broadens her reputation with crave-worthy bagels and beverages inspired by New York soda fountains of yesteryear: Egg Creams, Sodas, and Cocktails.
Todd Thrasher is a wine and spirits aficionado, whose legendary drinks have cultivated four of the region’s top bars the bars – Restaurant Eve, Society Fair, his notorious speak-easy, PX, and the recently opened Brothers and Sisters in the Line Hotel – into some of the region’s most exalted spirits programs. In 2018, Esquire gave some “brotherly love” to Thrasher by picking the bar as one of the best in the country. Thrasher tapped simoneink to launch his most ambitious project yet: The Potomac Distilling Company, a three-level restaurant, bar, and distillery anchoring The Wharf along DC’s waterfront. In addition to three bar areas, a retail shop, and a garden rooftop lounge for casual dining, the enterprise will feature an on-site distillery producing Thrasher’s Rum, his very own distinctive rum labels – and naturally, a stylish tasting room.
Keeping one foot in her home state, Ms. Rathlé has an abiding love of New Orleans. She proudly represents the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group: with a name now synonymous with New Orleans, Ralph Brennan is a third-generation scion of the family that made the New Orleans fine dining experience the internationally renowned gustatory celebration it is today. Ralph Brennan learned the ropes of restaurant hospitality at Brennan’s in his early teens, and it is now the crown jewel of his own portfolio of fine restaurants; chef Slade Rushing has twice been named a James Beard Award Finalist for “Best Chef: South.” The RBRG was delighted to be asked to acquire the Napoleon House, a 200-year-old landmark that it maintains in its beloved state of ‘shabby-chic.’ Other notable spots include Ralph’s on the Park, Red Fish Grill, café b, Café NOMA, and Jazz Kitchen in Los Angeles – all of which focus on using ingredients grown in Louisiana and seafood from the Gulf. In addition to multiple ‘beans’ awarded by The Times-Picayune, Ralph Brennan’s restaurants have garnered glowing mentions in The New York Times, as well as Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.
In San Antonio, Texas, Ms. Rathlé continues to assist in branding chef Steve McHugh with his first gastro-pub, Cured, which anchors the culinary mecca of the historic Pearl Brewing complex. She has been working with this impressive chef for a dozen years, since his days as chef de cuisine at Restaurant August in New Orleans, and building on his subsequent successes, has showcased a compelling real-life story for the media. Cured has won praise from patrons and critics alike, being named one of “America’s Best New Restaurants 2014” by Bon Appétit and one of the six runners-up for Esquire’s 2014 Food & Drink Awards – “American’s Best New Restaurants.” In 2016, 2017, and 2018, McHugh has been a finalist for “Best Chef: Southwest” by the James Beard Awards.
Ms. Rathlé is taking the remarkable family history of Nashville, Tennessee’s Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery to the public through well-placed media focused on the revival of Belle Meade Bourbon by Charlie and Andy Nelson, the charismatic descendants of the company's founder, 5th generation grandfather Charles Nelson. These two brothers have launched the second wave of the historic family venture, greeting the public into the lofty industrial building that captures the handsome purposeful essence of the space with award-winning small batch spirits. Products ranging from Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee White Whiskey and Louisa’s Liquor to innovative limited release cask finishes, are all attracting international attention, high profile press, and a fiercely loyal following.
Also in simoneink’s exclusive stable of highly sought-after product clients is La Boîte, the New York boutique of Israeli born spice master, classically trained chef, and two-time cookbook author Lior Lev Sercarz. La Boîte is where home cooks and notable professionals, alike, seek his mesmerizing spice blends and biscuits, made with the purest and most aromatic spices from around the world. An acknowledged ‘spice guru,’ Sercarz has partnered with star chef Éric Ripert to create bespoke spice blends, available at Williams Sonoma stores across the country. Others who enlist his expertise are: Michael Solomonov, José Andrés, David Chang and Ina Garten, to name a few. Lior and La Boîte have been featured in publications including The New York Times, Vogue, InStyle Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Food & Wine and SAVEUR 100.
The remarkable skillets of Butter Pat Industries dovetail neatly with simoneink’s focus on chefs and hospitality. Owner Dennis Powell spent years researching and developing a new skillet that would approximate the qualities of his grandmother Estee’s own cast iron pan. What he created, once his unrelenting standards led to new casting technologies, was something that may have surpassed the original: an American-made cast iron skillet that is as thin as possible and perfectly smooth. Available in four sizes, Butter Pat skillets are designed in Virginia, hand-cast in small batches in a Pennsylvania forge, and hand-finished on Maryland's Eastern Shore. They are sought-after by chefs, home cooks, and anyone who values beauty in objects of surpassing utility.
The Easton Porter Group, led by husband and wife team Dean Porter Andrews and Lynn Easton, accomplished leaders of the boutique hospitality and event industry, turned to Ms. Rathlé to represent Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, a unique property among the growing number of fine wineries along Virginia’s Monticello Wine Trail. The property’s own Certified Horticulturist Diane Burns, continuously cultivates more than 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the property’s Zone 7 gardens. Immersed in an atmosphere of relaxed elegance, its Tasting Room, helmed by chef Ian Rynecki, offers pairings of the most elevated vineyard-to-table cuisine – sourced directly from the Kitchen Garden on-site – that you’ll find among the gentle hills of Virginia’s Piedmont country. In the heart of Charlottesville is the sister property, Red Pump Kitchen, that borrows the finest resources from Pippin Hill’s gardens to round out the Italian-inspired menu by chef Reid Owen, and over-the-top bar program by Kendall Moore.
Over a span of more than 18 eventful years, Ms. Rathlé has worked with Sean Cummings, the visionary New Orleans hotelier and developer whose company, Ekistics, pioneered loft-style living and premier boutique hotels in that city. She successfully positions International House and Loft 523 as the most hip, high-style, and soulful accommodations in town; promoted the groundbreaking Rice Mill Lofts condominium complex on the banks of the Mississippi; and gained important attention for the street level restaurant, which is now occupied by chef Nina Compton, Bywater American Bistro. Ms. Rathlé has built a high profile for Cummings' brand by showcasing his community involvement, particularly as it relates to encouraging entrepreneurs and creatives contributing to the recent New Orleans renaissance.
Ms. Rathlé’s experience with tourism, the boutique hotel industry, and the world of high-end restaurants is extensive, and the trust she upholds with her friends in the media is reflected in her success on behalf of her clients. Her past clients are well worth noting, too, having achieved an impressive level of prominence through the efforts of her firm:
Passion Food Hospitality, which she oversaw for 20 years, operates some of the most acclaimed and popular restaurants in the nation’s capital region—Acadiana; Burger, Tap & Shake [in the neighborhood of Foggy Bottom and formerly in Tenleytown]; District Commons; Penn Commons; PassionFish [located in Reston, Virginia and Bethesda, MD], TenPenh and the former Ceiba, DC Coast and Fuego Cocina y Tequileria. Jeff Tunks, the group’s chef and co-proprietor, was Washington’s Chef of the Year for 2003-2004 and was appointed board chair of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Three of Tunks’ restaurants have been honored as “Best Restaurant in the United States” by Esquire Magazine.
Nick Stefanelli, one of the city’s brightest emerging chefs, tapped simoneink to represent his first solo-venture, Masseria, which garnered a Michelin star in 2016, just a year-and-a-half after its opening. An exclusive restaurant in the progressive Union Market district of Washington, DC, Masseria is a celebration of big, harmonious flavors and the authentic Italian cooking that shaped Stefanelli’s palate as a child. Rathlé successfully promoted the European chic of Masseria and its fashion-savvy chef-owner with positioning in every regional and national platform.
Tapestry, by renowned Indian-American Michelin Star chef Suvir Saran, was launched by simoneink. The New York West Village gem presented an ever-evolving, seasonally dynamic menu that interpreted cuisines of the world through an Indian palate.
For award-winning BBQ Champ Andrew Evans in Easton, Maryland, Ms. Rathlé orchestrated a graceful professional transition from acclaimed fine dining chef to serious contender on the national competitive barbecue circuit, with two BBQ Joint locations and a traveling catering van/BBQ smoker. She successfully positioned Evans nationally as a featured contestant on the Food Network show, “Beat Bobby Flay.”
Simoneink was the first public relations representative of John Besh, building his brand and securing him in the public eye for 12 over years, during which he opened his flagship Restaurant August in New Orleans. The restaurant’s first major inclusion was in Gourmet magazine’s Guide to America’s Best Restaurants, and its success was followed by the launch of Besh Steak, La Provence, Lüke, Domenica, and American Sector. Simone Rathlé and John Besh worked tirelessly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to bring relief to many areas of greater metropolitan New Orleans. In 2006, Besh was honored by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef of the Southeast. Through Ms. Rathlé’s efforts, Besh competed for the title of Iron Chef America, and became a household name, recognized as the face of New Orleans and Louisiana. Ms. Rathlé developed and facilitated Besh’s first cookbook to be written and published. Besides inclusions in magazines and periodicals worldwide, Besh was highlighted in the Sundance Iconoclast series.
Also among the fine restaurants Ms. Rathlé has had the privilege to represent is Seeger’s in Atlanta, the showcase for the award-winning cuisine of renowned chef Guenter Seeger. Her work with popular chef-author-columnist Robert St. John of Hattiesburg, Mississippi elevated public and critical awareness of his Purple Parrot Cafe, Mahogany Bar, and Branch. Her assiduous helped to secure Mahogany Bar on Draft Magazine's list of America's Top 100 Beer Bars, and Southern Living’s Best Bars in the South.
Ms. Rathlé represented The Clifton Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property exuding quiet country charm with a Jeffersonian pedigree in Charlottesville, Virginia; its restaurant was widely acknowledged as offering the best fine dining in an area rich in culinary options.
She also represented The Jefferson, DC, following the historic hotel’s emergence from a glamorous renovation that saw the launch of Plume, the only restaurant in the nation’s capital to bear a 5-star rating from Forbes; it went on to receive a star from the Michelin Guide. Also in Washington, the chic Dupont Circle Hotel and its sister property, the nearby ‘well-kept-secret,’ The Normandy Hotel, are distinctive and sophisticated properties that have benefitted from Ms. Rathlé's expertise positioning top end boutique hotels.
The Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas defines Southern hospitality and, under Ms. Rathlé's skillful direction, served as the launch pad for a new interpretation of Southern foodways in its fine dining restaurant, Ashley’s.
In the Finger Lakes region of New York, simoneink secured significant recognition for the historic Aurora Inn and its sister property, E.B. Morgan House. Striking a balance between historic charm and modern luxury, during Ms. Rathlé’s tenure, E.B. Morgan House was named one of the “25 Most Romantic Hotels” in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure, and both hotels consecutively received the AAA Four-Diamond Award. Also situated in picturesque rural New York, is the Catskill property known as The Roxbury Motel. With edgy, high-style rooms based on vintage TV shows and movies, The Roxbury was selected as a Fodor’s Choice property and was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and Travel + Leisure under the guidance of Ms. Rathlé and her team.
In its heyday, The Garrett Hotel Group was one of Ms. Rathlé’s most prominent hotel clients, benefiting from her representation for ten eventful years. The Point, in Saranac Lake, New York, a resort consistently listed as #1 in the country by the Zagat Guide to Top U.S. Resorts, was its flagship property; The Inn of The Five Graces in Santa Fe was named one of Andrew Harper’s Top 25 Global Hideaways for 2005; and Lake Placid Lodge, a Relais & Châteaux resort and a constant on the top travel destination lists, was named a finalist for the Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards in the Preservation category.
Cal-A-Vie, the Vista, California luxury spa that Ms. Rathlé represented from 2003 to 2008, was named #2 in the world among Top Destination Spas by Travel + Leisure. The Chanler at Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, gained continuous recognition for being the most luxe hotel along the New England coast. Also under Ms. Rathlé’s former public relations representation, The Inn at Dos Brisas in Washington, Texas garnered a rating of 5 Stars from Forbes [formerly Mobil] for its restaurant [of only 17 in the country with that accreditation] and was granted Relais & Châteaux status. Over the course of two years, the hotel and its owner were placed in feature stories in every top publication in the U.S.
Two cities have relied on Ms. Rathlé's expert representation to position them nationally as tourist destinations. Hosting media in Mobile, Alabama, and Phoenix, Arizona, respectively, and arranging desk-side press meetings and events in Washington, DC and New York City, she gained high-profile coverage for her client-cities in publications like USA Today, The Washington Post, and Travel & Leisure.
With her focus on artisanal products and purveyors, Ms. Rathlé proudly took on the major national account of the industry-funded agricultural research and promotion group The National Honey Board, energetically assisting in its mission to educate consumers on the benefits and uses of honey.
A new division of media relations unfolded at simoneink with the publication of two of her clients' cookbooks. Chef John Besh’s My New Orleans [Andrew McNeel, October 2009] was nominated for a James Beard Award and won a coveted IACP Award. A spectacular cookbook by David Guas, DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style [Taunton Press, November 2009], was also nominated for a James Beard Award and was a finalist for an IACP Award. Following these successful book launches simoneink welcomed several more authors. Deb Shriver, Vice President of Marking of Hearst Corporation, received acclaim for her captivating first book, Stealing Magnolia: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, about the restoration of an old house in the French Quarter in the wake of Katrina; Southern Living Magazine included it in the annual Christmas gift guide. The Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan entrusted the launch of his second cookbook to simoneink; Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One impressed readers from Epicurious to Men’s Health. Robert St. John's ninth publication, a lovingly researched and gorgeously water-colored tour of Italy entitled An Italian Palate, joined the canon of his much-loved publications in 2013. And 2015 brought David Guas’ second cookbook, Grill Nation: 200 Surefire Recipes, Tips, and Techniques to Grill Like a Pro[Oxmoor House, April 2015], along with a first book by renowned physician and exploration traveler, Mike Manyak: Lizard Bites & Street Riots, a handy reference guide of preparation and prevention tools designed to decrease emergency travel risks.
Ms. Rathlé is equally at home in the booming industry of culinary television. In addition to placing her chefs on major broadcast television programs like CNN and NBC’s Today Show, she has secured a national television show on TLC, Inedible to Incredible for John Besh, and has been instrumental in having her chef-clients featured on high-profile national network programs. Country Music Television came knocking for assistance with its first annual “Artists of the Year” ceremony, where simoneink served as culinary advisor and secured placements from Esquire to AOL/Slashfood.
Prior to establishing her own firm, Ms. Rathlé directed media relations for some of the world’s most notable hotel corporations. For Orient-Express Hotels, she coordinated all PR for the Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans, and The Lodge at Vail, Colorado, and was a liaison with the European properties for over six years. Following her tenure in New Orleans and affiliations abroad, for four years she was Public Relations Director for Exclusive Hotels by Forte, whose properties included The Hotel Plaza Athénée, The Hotel Westbury, and The Watergate Hotel in the US, the King Edward in Toronto, The Plaza Athénée in Paris, and The Westbury in London. A position with The Wentworth Group placed her in charge of PR for The Westbury, New York and The Westbury and The Wentworth Club, London.
In her capacity as PR executive, Ms. Rathlé has worked extensively with corporate and media executives, dignitaries, and celebrities, including President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan; President George H.W. Bush; Prime Minister John Majors; Raul Granillo Ocampo, the Ambassador of Argentina; Prince and Princess Michael of Kent; Keith Richards; Julia Child; and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Ms. Rathlé has won two gold Addies, or American Advertising Awards. She is an avid runner, and has competed extensively, completing a marathon and winning the New York City Turkey Trot for her age category. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Currently, Ms. Rathlé works with Blue Star Families, a non-profit national organization that benefits military families by connecting communities and creating opportunities, as well as Habitat for Humanity NOVA, the Northern Virginia chapter of a national non-profit organization that helps low to moderate-income families build and find affordable, long-term housing. Ms. Rathlé has advised the St. Bernard Project – a non-profit organization assisting in wellness and building homes for displaced residents of New Orleans’ St. Bernard Parish. In June 2010, after attending First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chef’s Move at the White House, Ms. Rathlé joined the board of Chefs as Parents, an organization that is helping to meet children’s meal plan needs in the DC public school system. She is also actively involved with Real Food for Kids, a grassroots program promoting healthier food choices for students of Fairfax County, Virginia public schools. In recognition of her expertise in the industry, Leading Hotels of the World appointed Ms. Rathlé to its Media Advisory Board for 2004-2005. Ms. Rathlé also was appointed to the Media Advisory Board for the Louisiana Tourism and Cultural Development Committee under Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu. In 2006, asked to lend her expertise and talents to the James Beard Foundation Awards, she was responsible for promoting the awards to television outlets.
Among Ms. Rathlé’s proudest accomplishments are her fundraising efforts. In 2005, “Po’ Boy Power!” – a fundraiser she developed for the benefit of Hurricane Katrina victims – made national news. The first “Po’ Boy Power!” event was held just twelve days after the storm hit, and her efforts helped raise $27,000 within a two-hour time span. She was involved in raising funds for policemen and firemen in the city’s devastated communities over the course of the following year. In June 2010, she was tapped to help the St. Bernard Project raise funds via the Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express, to benefit fishermen of the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods had been destroyed by the oil spill. In DC, the ‘station stop’ that she conducted, and in New Orleans, where she was also involved, the events raised nearly half of the $100,000 total goal.
The success of simoneink comes from its personal approach to positioning its clients. All media contacts and hospitality and tourism industry officials work directly with the principal, Simone Rathlé. All conceptualization, execution, creative writing, marketing development, graphic design, art direction, branding, food styling, editorial placement and maintaining extensive media relations is proactively directed by Ms. Rathlé. For her energetic, thoughtful and savvy expertise, simoneink is continually recognized as one of the premier boutique agencies in the country.