“Local Tastemakers” is a collection of intimate interviews exploring Newport Beach’s flavor and flair through the eyes of the city’s most captivating chefs and restaurateurs during a time that has heavily impacted the restaurant and hospitality communities. Follow along every week to get to know familiar faces and the secrets to the dish that made them a locals’ favorite.
When it comes to fine dining, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar sure knows how to woo. This upscale Fashion Island establishment specializes in prime steaks, fresh seafood, handcrafted cocktails and globally-curated wines. And even with numerous locations nationwide, Fleming’s still aims to provide its patrons with an authentic, localized experience—which is exactly where Fleming’s Operating Partner Sanjiv Gupta shines.
Born in Brussels, Belgium, and the son of an Indian father and Belgian mother, Gupta was introduced to various cultures and cuisines at a young age. But before he caught his stride in the hospitality industry, Gupta’s beginnings were humble, as he “began” his journey into food and beverage by waiting tables. Fast forward, and you’ll find Gupta managing one of Newport Beach’s finest dining destinations. And when he’s not pulling all the strings, you’ll find him doing what locals do best—enjoying the city’s superb weather by boating on the bay.
Operating Partner Sanjiv Gupta & Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Why/how did you get into the restaurant industry?
I have always loved food and beverage. Due to my background—my dad is Indian, and my mother is Belgian—I have been lucky enough to experience diverse cultures. Growing up, all of our family occasions were held at my aunt and uncle’s restaurant. I started waiting tables at 18 and have not looked back since.
What is the best part of your job?
I love being social and interacting with guests! Making connections with my guests is what I enjoy the most.
What is the most popular thing on the menu, and what is your favorite?
Locals and visitors love our filet mignon and Fleming’s Potatoes, which are both truly fantastic. My personal favorite is our Prime Bone-In Ribeye, which is served with a choice of our signature butters: béarnaise, smoked chili or herbed horseradish.
Looking Back at 2020
Talk to us about all the ways you pivoted your operation in 2020/21.
Prior to March 2020, Fleming’s primarily focused on the growth of our on-premise business model. After, Fleming’s decided to expand into off-premise dining with curbside pickup and delivery services to reach guests in a new way. Providing world-class dining experiences at our restaurant is what we do, and it was our sole focus at the time. We quickly had to explore and learn how to re-imagine our in-restaurant experiences into a to-go fashion.
While we always prefer to host and serve our guests at our restaurant, 2020 taught us to be flexible and serve our guests wherever they are most comfortable. We put the same thoughtfulness and ingenuity into our to-go formats as we do with our in-restaurant experiences, from the menu selections, packaging and reheating instructions to our experiential wine add-ons. We’re committed to providing our guests with a memorable dining experience crafted with care—regardless of whether they are dining around our table or their’s at home.
We enhanced our (already) strict food and safety guidelines and implemented several new measures such as:
• Ensuring social distancing per local ordinances
• Requiring Managers and Associates to wear face coverings at all times
• Increased surface sanitation
• Transitioned to single-use disposable menus or digital menus
• Joined the ServSafe dining commitment to show our ongoing dedication to our guests
The Silver Lining
What does it mean to be part of the NB community?
We’ve been a part of the Newport Beach community for over 20 years, and for us, this feels like being part of a family. Throughout the past year, Newport Beach residents have shown an overwhelming amount of support for us, each other and other local businesses. Now and always, we are incredibly grateful for the support.
We have a supportive community. What are specific things people can do to help our restaurants?
First and foremost, follow state-mandated regulations when dining out. Our team is doing everything possible to maintain the health and wellness of our associates and guests, as safety is our top priority. And as a community, we can all work together to stay safe.
Support restaurants of any size or scale however you can. Choose to support at your comfort level—from dining outdoors, ordering dinner to-go or even simply buying a gift card as a way to treat family or friends. It not only gives business owners, associates and staff hope for greater days ahead but also the strength to continue moving forward.