David Howard (DH), a James Beard Awards Semi-Finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur, is the founder of The Neighborhood Dining Group (NDG).
His culinary journey began in rural England, growing up on his family’s farm in a small village of fewer than 100 people. Inspired by his Danish mother, who was a passionate cook, DH developed a keen interest in the culinary arts as a boy. By the tender age of eight, he already declared his intention to become a chef, often locking himself in the kitchen to bake cookies for his family. It was in those moments that he discovered the profound joy of cooking, serving others, and creating moments of pleasure through food.
At the age of 16, DH’s creativity and passion led him to pursue formal culinary education. He attended culinary school and spent summers honing his skills in St. Moritz, Switzerland. His dedication and talent were recognized upon graduation when he received an invitation to serve his culinary apprenticeship at the world-renowned Claridge’s in London. This invaluable experience was followed by positions in various countries, including Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, and Bermuda. In 1982, DH fulfilled his dream of moving to the United States, embracing the land of opportunity.
Throughout his travels and interactions with culinary professionals around the world, DH was deeply influenced by the importance of treating people with respect and decency. Armed with these experiences, DH set out to establish an alternative doctrine based on respect and integrity, which he has steadfastly followed since the inception of NDG.
In 1991, as he embarked on creating his first restaurant, DH handwrote an outline of the guiding principles he would adhere to. One of the key aspects of this doctrine was providing his team with benefits and respectable wages. With a deep respect for others, he recognized the significance of offering health insurance to staff and management, a 401k retirement savings plan with a company match, discounted dining, and paid vacations. The loyalty he has received from his team throughout the years stands as a testament to the success that stems from such a genuine commitment to their well-being.
DH’s unwavering belief in supporting and empowering his staff has fostered a culture of trust, where individuals can thrive and contribute their best. By demonstrating strong guidance, integrity, and confidence, rather than resorting to threats, humiliation, dishonesty, or insecurity, the management at NDG embodies the principles outlined in DH’s early handwritten policies.
As NDG continues to grow and flourish, DH’s vision remains central to the company’s culture. His commitment to treating others with respect and providing a nurturing work environment has created an environment where talent thrives, loyalty is rewarded, and everyone can contribute to the collective success of NDG.