One of the best meals we had in 2022 so far was at Michelin-starred Francie in Brooklyn—the roast duck was so good that we took home a fatty piece for chief canine officer Artemis (because we didn’t want our little canine critic to miss out), and the ambiance was fancy but not pretentious. Dog dad of two Miniature Schnauzers, Georgie and Kodi, and owner of the brasserie, John Winterman, brought over the duck to our table himself. We spoke to the restaurateur, who splits his time between Brooklyn and Sharon Springs, New York, about what he feeds his dogs (no, not the roast duck), the best wedding gift you could get for your partner, and how to pick the best business partners.
Did you grow up with dogs?
There was a dog when I was born—I have very little memory of him. He was around the first couple of years. The dog I remember the most is Lucy. She was a tall mixed breed. A great family dog. She was around from when I was aged three or four to when I was a freshman in high school. We had a couple dogs in between—my stepfather was a hunter, so he did attempt to train a beagle to hunt. We also had one of those little guys, Cocker Spaniel, for a short time when I was growing up. But once I went off to university, I wasn’t really around dogs at all until Kodi in 2015. There was a big gap.
“Give him a piece of deli cheddar and he’ll eat it, but he won’t be pleased. Give him a piece of two-year-old Gruyère and he’s insane.”
What made you decide to get Kodi?
I didn’t decide. My wife decided—she had grown up with dogs, as well. I was going to buy her a wedding gift and the wedding gift turned out to be Kodi. She did some research and found a breeder for Miniature Schnauzers. We got off the waitlist and she got first pick of the next letter. She bonded through the puppy cam with one of the little guys. He was doing just doing his own thing and we knew that was our dog. We picked him up on Valentine’s Day. He fought her for a minute or two, and then he snuggled into her lap. That was pretty much it. She considers Kodi her soulmate. I’m dispensable.
COVID opened the door to Georgie because Georgie wouldn’t have happened if I was at the restaurant all the time and my wife was going to an office.
So Georgie was a pandemic puppy?
Definitely. My wife works at home remotely—permanently—which is great.
They definitely won the Miniature Schnauzer lottery.
Did they get along immediately? Was it love at first sight or was there an adjustment period?
We picked up Georgie last summer at the airport—and Kodi got jealous right away. There was some growling, but Georgie at nine weeks old wasn’t having it. He did his tiny puppy growl back. Kodi is definitely the alpha of the group, but Georgie’s not backing down. Kodi is now seven and he can be a little shy, especially around new people. But Georgie walks around telling everybody who he is—he talks a lot.
What does a typical day in the life for you and your dogs look like?
Georgie acts like every morning is Christmas morning, while Kodi takes a little longer to wake up. He’ll wait for his back scratch because only I can scratch his back the way he wants it. He’ll let me know if he’s finished or not. Maybe that gets the blood pumping or something. We have a terrace, so we’ll hang out for a bit. The first thing Georgie does is grab his toys. By the time I’ve had two espressos, we’re ready for our walk. You know as well as I do, dogs are creatures of routine. We like to take the same routes. If they get their harnesses on and into the elevator without a fuss, they get a little treat in the elevator. Sometimes we go to the dog run. Sometimes we get up early enough to go off leash in Prospect Park. We got to Velvette Brew for coffee about three times a week. On weekends, we go to a farmer’s market and there’s a fish guy at the farmer’s market who gives them treats. Sometimes they drag me to the wine shop for treats. And then you end up buying a bottle, you know? There’s a little corner bagel shop where there are treats. Our neighborhood is very smart.
When we get back, it’s time for breakfast. We have to guard because Kodi eats fast enough that he wants to finish Georgie’s food. And Georgie’s a polite little guy. Once Georgie’s done, we’ll let them trade bowls and they always check each other’s food bowls to make sure they’ve cleaned them properly. I leave around 12:30 p.m. for the restaurant. Georgie does his own thing, but Kodi needs a specific goodbye—otherwise he’ll sit at the door and cry. So, I have to crouch down, while Kodi comes over and puts his paw on my knee. I tell him goodbye and to take care of everybody while I’m gone.
When I come back, my wife is perfectly happy to see me, but the dogs act like it’s a party when Dad comes home. I spent 10 minutes rolling around on the floor.
As the owner of Francie, you obviously have great taste. So what do you feed your dogs?
They get Merrick kibble in the morning, mixed with bone broth or an unseasoned chicken stock. We usually cook fish for them in the morning—something a little fatty like a mackerel. I put an oily fish in the iron skin-side down and get the skin crispy for them. They can smell it, so they’ll sit there and stare at me while we let it cool down. We mix that into their food. We’ll make enough fish for three days at a time and my wife will make bone broth for them. Last time, we used chicken wings, which comes out like an aspic once you put it in the fridge. We add a little probiotic powder. None of this is seasoned, of course. She’s very careful about extra sodium.
Dinners are a bit different. She and her friend Lauren will make big batches together. They go to the local butcher called Fleishers. They buy organ meats like kidneys and chicken hearts. They roast everything, dice it up, mix it in with carrots and parsley. Sometimes they add a little squash. They’ll make big batches at a time and bring it back and forth from one apartment to the other. The dogs have dinner dates with each other all the time. They’re constantly socializing.
Out of all the dog parents we’ve conversed with so far, your dogs might be eating the best.
When the restaurant was shut down in 2020, I would leave in the afternoon and go on long walks. There was nothing else to do. But every evening around 5:30 p.m., I would make a cheese plate for my my wife. Kodi loves cheese and started to pick up on this. When 5:30 rolls around, he sits at the table and he’s ready. If you give him a piece of deli cheese, he’ll eat it—but he’ll kind of judge you for it. He unfortunately likes artisanal cheese.
At one point, my wife and her friend, Lauren, were bringing in super crunchy dehydrated fish skins from Iceland. It’s their nightcap. I get home around midnight and make a cocktail, and they get a light satisfying treat.
What about going to restaurants with your dogs?
It’s a touchy subject because I’m a restaurateur. [In Sharon Springs, New York], there’s a small spot called 204 Main Bar & Bistro—a gentleman there will set up a table on his terrace so we can bring the dogs to dinner. And we go to a place called the American Hotel, which has a pub area where we can grab a cocktail or bite to eat. In Brooklyn, there’s a place called Stone Park Cafe with a large outdoor seating area near a park. But we don’t take them out to eat a lot. We try not to force our dogs onto other businesses unless they’re explicit dog friendly.
How have Kodi and Georgie deepened your relationship with your wife?
Our conversations have changed. I’ll get texts from her about how Kodi and Georgie pooped twice on their walk.
Do you consider yourself a dog dad?
You’re not embarrassed?
There’s no shame. I don’t really care what people think.
What is it about Miniature Schnauzers that you two love so much?
My wife grew up with them and I think they’re extraordinarily smart. They’ve got unbelievable hearing and sense of smell. Kodi’s actually a bit of problem solver. It’s hard to fool him. Not that I go around trying to trick my dogs, but he’s an intelligent creature. He knows a lot of words, commands, and facial expressions. When he gets in trouble, my wife will speak to him in Korean. She doesn’t even yell at me in Korean.
If Georgie and Kodi were people, what would they be like?
My wife likes to describe Kodi as an English boarding school student—a bit prissy and a little bit snobby. Give him a piece of deli cheddar and he’ll eat it, but he won’t be pleased. Give him a piece of two-year-old Gruyère and he’s insane. Georgie is rambunctious and super friendly. He trusts everyone—while Kodi definitely doesn’t.
Do the dogs sleep in bed with the parents?
Yes. We’re fastidious about cleaning their paws and wiping their mustaches and bathing them once a week. My wife and Lauren were taking them to the groomer, but it’s extraordinarily expensive. They got proper grooming equipment on their own. A lot of trial and error. We’ve got a friend with a Schnauzer named Zippo, and they’ll go over for a spa session and get groomed together.
Love that they have spa days and dinner dates with their friends. It seems like you have a really great support system for the dogs.
When I met Chris [Cipollone], my business partner and the chef at Francie, we bonded because he had a French Bulldog named Calvin. At that point, Calvin was almost 10 years old and had special needs. Part of the way you judge a person’s character is how they treat animals. There are always heartbreaking stories about dogs getting old and getting abandoned because people don’t want to deal with them. I could tell right away that Chris and his wife were not those people. They took care of Calvin until the bitter end—however expensive and inconvenient it was. And then we met our main investor, Mark [Norbom]. Mark had brought back rescue dogs from Asia, where he spent a lot of time for work. When we all got together, we just knew. The character of the person you’re looking for is relevant to how they treat their animals.
Photography by Tayler Smith