Our Story

The Bartleby & Sage Story

Back in 1997, armed with a passion for great food, a master’s degree in English literature, and a ridiculously affordable lease in Long Island City, Leslie Nilsson began the Sage story. The original Sage American Kitchen was an homage to The Silver Palate, New York’s first gourmet take-out shop. With reverence for regional American cooking, sustainable food, and emerging flavors and techniques from around the globe, the catering branch of Sage kept growing to become its own distinct event-planning company, Bartleby & Sage.

Who is Bartleby? He is our tribute to America’s greatest writer, Herman Melville. There is no more astute observer of American culture, no wiser satirist of our uniquely American mix of religion, capitalism and immigrant hopefulness. Bartleby & Sage represents that mix in our dedication to delicious food, loyalty to our clients and staff, and whimsical humor when you need a good laugh after a stressful event. We are partners with our clients and cultivate long-lasting relationships that go beyond the catering and into the many aspects of event planning.

Leslie Nilsson Founder & Creative Director

Leslie Levin Nilsson grew up in a small town obsessed with food, so obsessed that in 1997 she left a career as an English professor and Glamour editor to start the Sage brand. Bartleby & Sage traces its roots to the original Sage American Kitchen take-out shop that led to a boutique catering company focusing on handmade, locally sourced foods and sustainable business practices. For the past 20 years, Leslie has guided the company, which has been featured on The Food Network, ABC, The New York Times, Time Out, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, and New York magazine, to name a few. She is on the board of many local organizations which aligns with the company’s commitment to community, staff and education.

Her favorite foods?  The lobster roll at Bagaduce Lunch in Brooksville, Maine, with New Orleans cooking and all things Italian close seconds.

Greta Poretsky Event Catering Director

Greta Poretsky started as an intern at Bartleby & Sage while studying at LaGuardia College. Her second weekend on the job, Bartleby & Sage had three weddings scheduled when Hurricane Irene hit.  Greta was so determined to get those couples married that she worked 24/7 with Leslie to shift venues (and everything else!) at the last possible minute.  Her dedication landed her a full-time job, and she is now a partner in the firm. Greta runs the day-to-day operations with panache and patience. Originally from Bulgaria, her world perspective makes our international clients more comfortable.  Being married to a Carolina native, she understands devotion to authentic southern BBQ and football.

Our Chefs

Ramon Lara, Executive Chef, hails from the Dominican Republic, graduated from the Culinary Institute of Miami, and worked for more than 18 years for very respected institutions, from the Delano Hotel to Great Performances, before joining Bartleby & Sage in 2012. His instinct for the earthy cuisines of the D.R., Italy and ethnic America, along with his experience cooking for such high-end events as the Grammys and award dinners for Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, fashion clients, and NYC mayors, among others, make Ramon the perfect chef for our vast array of clients, from the farm-obsessed to the fashion-focused.

Jorge Cuzco, Chef de Cuisine, grew up in Ecuador and came to New York to work as a cook at Café Society, where he met Leslie back in 1995. She recognized Jorge had that rare talent—a great palate—and they have worked together ever since. He is now the chief flavor creator at Bartleby & Sage and oversees the recipes and execution of events alongside Ramon, Greta and Leslie. Jorge creatively melds South American flavors with contemporary trends to create amazing dishes. Outside of work, his favorite pastime is cooking for friends and family on a  wood fire when he goes home to Ecuador.

Hans Baang, Pastry Chef/Creative Food Development, graduated from the New England Culinary Institute, then started working with Bartleby & Sage creating chic minimalist pastries and cakes, along with savory items developed specifically for our clients. Having grown up in the Philippines, Hans has developed a knack for recipes that merge the flavors of Asia and the Americas, not to mention those hand-iced buttercream wedding cakes and completely innovative flavor combinations. His food blog, “The Sugar Hippie” (www.thesugarhippie.com), is dedicated to the art of food, flavors and design.

Andre Martin, Operations Manager, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, and has a degree in engineering, a background that has made him invaluable to the logistics of running a successful catering company. While Andre is an extremely fit man, with his own fitness training business on the side, he doesn’t want any of our clients to be intimidated by his imposing physique—in fact, he is a warm and friendly member of the Bartleby & Sage staff, devoted to making sure that “each client is my own project: I love being able to figure out new solutions and strategies for each event.”

Bartleby & Sage