President and Office Director of All Projects + Accounts
With over a quarter of a century of experience as a public relations executive in the high-end hospitality industry, Simone Rathlé is highly respected in her field for her successful media contributions and is considered among the country’s top independently owned public relations and marketing agency promoting tourism and hospitality. Her Washington, DC-based media consulting firm, simoneink, is known for its select roster of clients in the hospitality arena specializing in contemporary and historic hotels, exclusive resorts and spas, award-winning chefs, distinguished restaurateurs, destinations, along with a continuing effort to giving back to the community through representation of select non-profit associations. Her twenty-six years of experience, have spanned across the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. One significant measure of any agency’s success is its client retention rates. simoneink has a superior track record: on average, 10 years or more.
Presently simoneink’s roster has you going across the bridge into Arlington, Virginia and Capitol Hill to the popular eateries of James Beard Award Cookbook Finalist and television personality chef David Guas. Ms. Rathlé has assisted Guas develop his vision of an eatery that captures the culture and tastes of New Orleans for those to enjoy in metropolitan DC: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, which opened November 2010 in Arlington and the most recent in Washington, DC in May 2015. 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 Today Show and CBS’ The Talk.
Passion Food Hospitality, which owns some of the most highly acclaimed and popular restaurants in the nation’s capital and tri-state area—Acadiana; Burger, Tap & Shake [in Washington’s Foggy Bottom and Tenleytown neighborhoods]; District Commons; Penn Commons; PassionFish [located in Reston, Virginia and Bethesda, MD], TenPenh and the former Ceiba, DC Coast and Fuego Cocina y Tequileria—has benefitted from Ms. Rathlé’s expertise since 1998. Jeff Tunks, their chef and co-owner, was Washington’s Chef of the Year for 2003-2004 and was appointed to chair the board 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.
Another of Washington's most renowned chefs graces simoneink’s client list for over a decade is Robert Wiedmaier, award-winning chef-owner of Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, Brabo, three Mussel Bar & Grille locations, Wildwood Kitchen, and Villain & Saint. Wiedmaier is distinguished not only by his fine French and hearty Flemish cuisine, but also in his role as a full-circle chef, to whom hunting and fishing are an integral part of the process in preparing good food. His premier restaurant, Marcel’s, received the highest honor from the respected authority on restaurants, Zagat Survey, as the top for food in the Washington, DC metro area and in a 2015 received 3.5 stars. In addition, Marcel’s is continuously one of the premier restaurants included by The Washington Post in food critic Tom Sietsema’s annual selection of personal best restaurants.
One of the growing, popular chefs in DC, Nick Stefanelli, tapped simoneink for his first solo-venture, Masseria which garnered a Michelin star in the Fall of 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 finest Italian cooking that shaped Stefanelli’s palate as a child. Rathlé is successful in promoting the undeniable chic of Masseria and its fashion-savvy chef-owner by positioning in every regional and national platform.
Simoneink added another distinguished client to the DC roster, Bourbon Steak, which follows the continued focus of the company in representing an establishment with its own signature style and culinary vision. Here we have it coming from a 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 artisan meats executed by chef Joe Palma.
Keeping one foot in her home state, Ms. Rathlé has an abiding love of New Orleans, which continuously benefits that city. That is clearly apparent in her current representation of 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. Brennan’s, where Ralph Brennan learned the ropes for his restaurant hospitality in his early teens, has been proudly added to his portfolio of fine restaurants – and chef Slade Rushing named a James Beard Award Finalist for “Best Chef: South.” Unexpected surprise that was embraced by the group was the purchase of the Napoleon House, a 200-year-old landmark. Other notable spots include Ralph’s on the Park, Red Fish Grill, café b, Café NOMA, Heritage Grill, and Jazz Kitchen – all of which focus on utilizing ingredients grown in Louisiana and seafood from the Gulf. From multiple ‘beans’ awarded by The Times-Picayune, Ralph Brennan’s restaurants have had glowing mentions in The New York Times, and top selections like Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.
In San Antonio, Texas, Ms. Rathlé has helped chef Steve McHugh launch his first gastro-pub, Cured, which anchors the culinary mecca that is the historic Pearl Brewing complex. She has been working with this impressive chef for a dozen years, since his days as chef de cuisine for John Besh in New Orleans, and building on his subsequent successes, has showcased a compelling real-life story for the media. Since opening, Cured has gone on to garner praise from patrons and critics alike, most recently being named one of top 50 for “America’s Best New Restaurants 2014” by Bon Appétit and one of the six select Runners-up for Esquire’s 2014 Food & Drink Awards – “America’s Best New Restaurants.” In 2016, McHugh was named a “Best Chef: Southwest” Finalist by the James Beard Awards.
Opened Spring 2016 by renowned Indian-American Michelin Star chef Suvir Saran, Ms. Rathlé added Tapestry in New York’s West Village to its portfolio. Presenting an ever-evolving, seasonally dynamic menu that interprets cuisines of the world through an Indian palate, Tapestry draws threads of ingredients and techniques from various continents. The accomplished chef translated his education and culinary zeal into a multi-pronged career, which produced three acclaimed cookbooks widely credited with bringing accessibility of Indian cuisine to the American cook while enhancing American and global classics. Today, chef Saran chairs the Asian Culinary Studies Department of the Culinary Institute of America and raises heritage breed animals while living a mostly organic, natural and humane lifestyle at his upstate New York farm “American Masala.” He is an in-demand guest speaker, teacher, and contributor to publications such as The Wall Street Journal. Saran has been a featured judge on Food Network's “Iron Chef” and “Next Iron Chef,” and achieved stardom on Bravo's “Top Chef Masters.”
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, Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish, and Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee White Whiskey by the charismatic descendents of the company's founder: Charlie and Andy Nelson. These two brothers have launched the second wave of the historic family venture and greet the public into the lofty industrial building that captures the handsome purposeful essence of the space with drinkable spirits of their award winning small-batch company.
With a focus on artisanal products and purveyors, Ms. Rathlé proudly took on the large, national account of the industry-funded agricultural promotion group The National Honey Board [NHB]. Working to educate consumers on the benefits and uses for honey and its products, NHB provides extensive research, marketing and promotional programs to accomplish its mission.
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 Mariza, the restaurant of chef Ian Schnoebelen that anchors the building. Through Ms. Rathlé’s positioning efforts, Mariza received the honor as Best New Restaurant by John Mariani in Esquire Magazine. She has built a high profile for Cummings' brand by showcasing his community involvement, particularly as it relates to encouraging entrepreneurs and creatives to contribute to the recent New Orleans renaissance.
Ms. Rathlé has represented The Clifton Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property that exudes quiet country charm with a Jeffersonian pedigree in Charlottesville, Virginia; its restaurant is widely acknowledged to offer the best fine dining in an area dense in dining options. Other former clients include The Jefferson, DC, a hotel named for and very much in the spirit of the same illustrious forefather, that’s historic grandeur and glamour, has become a celebrated treasure in Washington; all the more so for housing Plume, the only restaurant in Washington, DC to bear a 5-star rating from Forbes, which also received a One Star from the Michelin Guide in 2016.
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 has gained high-profile coverage for her client-cities in publications like USA Today, The Washington Post, and Travel & Leisure.
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 her efforts:
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.”
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, Ms. Rathlé 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. On the other end of the design spectrum, but likewise situated in picturesque rural New York state, is the Catskill property known as The Roxbury Motel, whose high-style and edgy rooms based on TV shows and movies from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, was selected as a Fodor’s Choice property since 2005 and was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and Travel + Leisure with the guidance of Ms. Rathlé and her team.
With simoneink’s continued efforts to position top end boutique hotels, The Dupont Circle Hotel is yet another chic, one-of-a-kind property to have benefitted from Ms. Rathlé's experience and expertise, as did the nearby 'well-kept-secret' exclusive property, The Normandy Hotel; both provide distinct and sophisticated guest experiences in Washington, DC.
In its heyday, The Garrett Hotel Group was one of her most prominent hotel clients, benefiting from her representation for 10 consecutive 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 in October 2004. The Chanler at Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, gained continuous recognition for being the most luxe hotel along the Northeast coastline.
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 selected as a member of Relais & Châteaux. In addition, the hotel and its respective owner was placed in every top publication in the U.S. with feature stories for a solid two years.
Simoneink was also the longtime public relations representative for John Besh, building his brand and securing him in the public eye for 12 heady years during which he opened his flagship restaurant, August, in New Orleans. The restaurant’s first major inclusion was being listed in Gourmet magazine’s Guide to America’s Best Restaurants, and followed with 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 metropolitan New Orleans and the outer lying areas. In 2006, chef Besh received his second nomination for a James Beard Foundation Award and won as Best Chef of the Southeast. Through Ms. Rathle’s pursuit to gain electronic media, she succeeded in having Besh battle Mario Batali on Iron Chef America, and one year later competed for the title of Iron Chef America. Ms. Rathle successfully established Besh as the face of New Orleans and Louisiana. He was on his way to becoming a household name. Besides the multiple inclusions in magazines and periodicals worldwide, Besh was highlighted in the Sundance Iconoclast series as a superior citizen making a difference in his community.
Also among the fine restaurants she has represented with great success in the past is Seeger’s in Atlanta, the completely renovated showcase for the award-winning cuisine of world-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 attention and contact with the press 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.
A new division of media relations unfolded at simoneink in the fall of 2009, with the publication of two of her clients' cookbooks. Chef John Besh’s impressive first cookbook, 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 cookbook launches simoneink welcomed several more authors. Deb Shriver, Vice President of Marking of Hearst Corporation, in her first book Stealing Magnolia: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, a story and scrapbook about the restoration of an old house in the French Quarter in the wake of Katrina, leads the reader through a rare tour of the city. Catching on to the book’s captivating nature, 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, the perfect companion for solo diners in need of tips on feeding themselves well. It impressed readers from Epicurious to the highly circulated publication, 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 the fall, 2013. And 2015 brought chef 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 expert, exploration traveler, Mike Manyak: Lizard Bites & Street Riots, which is a handy reference guide of preparation and prevention tools designed to decrease emergency travel risks.
Ms. Rathlé is equally at home in the growing 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 chefs featured on high-profile national network programs. CMT came knocking for some assistance with the Country Music Television’s first annual “Artists of the Year” ceremony where simoneink was the 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 a period of 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 include 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 also 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 is advisor to the St. Bernard Project – a non-profit organization assisting in wellness and building homes for displaced residents of New Orleans’ St. Bernard Parish – as well as Blue Star Families, a non-profit national organization that benefits military families by connecting communities and creating opportunities. 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 on several occasions. In 2006, Ms. Rathlé was 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 of the two “Po’ Boy Power!” events was held just 12 days after the devastating storm hit, and her efforts helped raise $27,000 within a two-hour time span. She was also 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 close to $50,000—nearly half of its $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.