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Get to know John Kolaski, the new president of Patina Restaurant Group

John Kolaski is a hospitality industry veteran and president of Delaware North’s Patina Restaurant Group.

John Kolaski, who goes by “JK,” is settling into his third month as the president of Delaware North’s Patina Restaurant Group. In this role, the 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry oversees a portfolio of streetside restaurants and catering operations in high-profile locations such as Downtown Disney, Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, New York City, Los Angeles and Boston.

Kolaski, who relocated to Buffalo to be based at the company’s headquarters, most recently led K2 Restaurants, a Los Angeles-based hospitality group and restaurant incubator that he founded and served as CEO for six years. Under his leadership, K2 Restaurants cultivated 20 company-owned brands poised for expansion through various channels, including brick and mortar, management, licensing and franchising.

Before establishing K2, Kolaski served in successive leadership roles at SBE Entertainment, a global hospitality and nightlife company based in Los Angeles. His roles at SBE included chief operating officer for restaurants and president of SBE’s Disruptive Restaurant Group. He also held key food and beverage leadership positions at Montage Hotels and Resorts and The Four Seasons.

What attracted you to Delaware North/Patina Restaurant Group?
I was drawn to Delaware North because of its incredible history as a privately owned company led by the Jacobs family. Throughout my career, I have worked with many of the company’s talented chefs and leaders. Ultimately, Patina’s incredible chefs and Delaware North’s collaborative culture drew me to this role.

How did you get your start in the hospitality industry, and do you recall a moment when you knew you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I fell in love with cooking in middle school because of a home economics class. I was fortunate to have a vocational school opportunity to enroll in a culinary/pastry arts program in my junior and senior years. My teacher and early mentor also pushed me to pursue a career in culinary.

From your view, what does an ideal dining experience look like?
An ideal dining experience should be memorable – through the food, the drinks, the ambiance or the service. Oftentimes, it is the tiny details of a hospitality experience that stand out the most in our memories, such as the lighting being just right, music playing with the perfect vibe or the conversation around the table … all of it is magical and memorable!

What is your favorite thing to eat or drink?
A crispy thin crust cheese pizza from Pizzano’s in Chicago – the best pizza ever. On a warm day, Tecate in a can with salt and lime on the rim.

What is your favorite hobby outside of work?
Going for a run! I always bring a pair of running shoes when I travel to new destinations – getting lost in the streets of an unfamiliar city is pure zen. Although, I once got so lost running in Dubai that I had to find a cab to take me back to my hotel … but that story is for another time!