Star Sommelier Is Charged With Setting Outdoor Dining Sheds on Fire



A slim man with lengthy hair crosses a darkish, empty Manhattan avenue in the midst of the night time. He has a lighter in his proper hand as he approaches a wood eating shed of the sort which have sprung up throughout New York Metropolis for the reason that pandemic started.

Glancing round shortly, he flicks the lighter beneath a serviette dispenser affixed to 1 finish of the construction, igniting a small flame. He then walks to the shed’s reverse finish and does the identical factor to the serviette holder there earlier than sauntering off down the block.

The seemingly informal act of fire-setting, caught on security-camera footage, is startling sufficient. Extra startling nonetheless is the individual accused of doing it: a star sommelier with an possession stake in a well-liked Decrease Manhattan wine bar.

On Wednesday, fireplace officers introduced that the sommelier, Caleb Ganzer, had been arrested and charged with two felony counts of arson and several other different crimes in reference to three fires, together with two at out of doors eating sheds in Manhattan.

Mr. Ganzer began the fireplace seen within the video, at a construction belonging to Prince Avenue Pizza, simply earlier than Three a.m. on July 13, officers mentioned. In January, officers mentioned, he set fireplace to a eating shed exterior Forsythia restaurant on Stanton Avenue shortly earlier than midnight. He’s additionally charged with beginning a trash fireplace on the nook of Broome and Centre Streets in June.

Each sheds, particularly Forsythia’s, had been broken by the fires, however nobody was damage, officers mentioned. Nonetheless, Daniel Nigro, the fireplace commissioner, famous in an announcement that “each act of arson has the potential to unfold quickly, endangering the lives of New Yorkers.”

Hearth officers didn’t point out what motive Mr. Ganzer, 35, might need had for beginning the fires. It was not clear whether or not he had a lawyer. He didn’t reply to telephone and textual content messages and didn’t reply the door at his residence handle. His social media accounts grew to become inactive shortly after the costs had been introduced.

In an announcement, the wine bar the place he’s the managing companion, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels on Centre Avenue, mentioned, “We as the corporate are conscious of the incident, and Mr. Ganzer is on a go away of absence.” The bar declined additional remark.

Forsythia’s proprietor, Jacob Siwak, mentioned in an interview on Wednesday {that a} well-dressed man sporting a beanie and a shawl had tried to mild the restaurant’s out of doors construction ablaze 4 instances over the course of at the very least 9 days in January.

Safety-camera footage confirmed the person unpacking his backpack, inserting a pile of kindling subsequent to trash that had been out from the night time earlier than after which repeatedly setting the kindling on fireplace, Mr. Siwak mentioned. The person waited for a large fireplace to burn earlier than strolling off.

Earlier than he reviewed the safety footage, Mr. Siwak mentioned he “was anticipating it to be a man that flicked a cigarette butt within the trash or a homeless man attempting to maintain heat.” As a substitute, he found a nattily dressed man intent on setting fireplace to his enterprise.

A number of of the person’s makes an attempt to burn the shed had been profitable, and two had been “fairly damaging,” Mr. Siwak mentioned. One other resulted in flames that had been at the very least two tales excessive and threatened to unfold to the restaurant and from there to the remainder of the constructing.


The restaurant spent about $3,500 to restore the shed, which needed to be rebuilt after each ends burned down utterly, Mr. Siwak mentioned, including that the construction was now fireplace retardant.

The harm was much less extreme at Prince Avenue Pizza, mentioned Tony Sosa, the supervisor, however he added that “it might have been very harmful,” particularly if the fireplace had unfold to the restaurant and the flats above.

A local of Illinois, Mr. Ganzer moved to New York a couple of dozen years in the past, in response to a 2017 article in The Each day Journal of Kankakee, Ailing., which famous that Meals & Wine journal had simply named him considered one of its sommeliers of the yr.

“New York is a kind of locations the place the longer you’re right here, the extra you carve out your individual area of interest, and the extra you need to make that area of interest larger,” he informed the newspaper. “New York’s develop into residence.”

In a latest interview with Sommelier Business, Mr. Ganzer spoke of investing in his wine bar’s out of doors eating area after what he known as the “curler coaster” of the previous 9 months, a interval he described as “form of existentially crippling.”

“There have been so many various waves of emotion,” he mentioned within the interview. “Within the very starting, there was denial, bordering on feeling personally attacked, as a result of no different business was hit as onerous.”

Earlier in his profession, Mr. Ganzer was the sommelier at Eleven Madison Park, which The New York Occasions referred to in Could as “the Manhattan restaurant that has been known as the most effective on the earth.

In accordance with a quick biography posted on the web site, he was “all the time a lover of wine” who moved to Paris throughout his senior yr of faculty, “the place he labored in a champagne retailer and grew his love of wine right into a full-fledged ardour.”

The bio lists a number of eating places owned by the chef Daniel Boulud, together with Daniel and DBGB, as different locations the place he was the sommelier.

In a video posted on the web site, Mr. Ganzer, then the Eleven Madison Park sommelier, demonstrates a way for serving port wine that includes heating a pair of tongs with a Bunsen burner in order that they can be utilized to chop off the bottle’s prime “to bypass the cork and simply get on the wine.”

“That is probably the most dramatic side of it,” he says at one level within the video. “It’s the fireplace.”

Christina Morales and Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.


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