We reported on Pittsburgh’s new Oaklander Hotel when it opened in February boasting breathtaking views from its penthouse restaurant, Spirits & Tales. Now we catch up with General Manager Modi Ahmed, who brings 14 years of hospitality management experience with top brands to Pennsylvania’s first Autograph Collection Hotel.
Before relocating to Lawrenceville, Ahmed oversaw a $9 million renovation at the Kimpton Madera Hotel in Washington, D.C. (his hometown), then ran the new boutique Graduate Hotel in Charlottesville, Va. His newfound passion for Pittsburgh is inspiring.
What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
With the fall season approaching, I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the end of summer at Riverlife’s Party at the Pier. This will be my first one and I can’t wait to see all the amazing fashions Pittsburgh will bring to the party. Also, with fall comes Steelers season. Walking into Heinz Field last year for my first Steelers game, it was amazing to truly see and feel the great history and pride of the team.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is having the ability to work with the amazingly passionate team members that we have at The Oaklander and Spirits & Tales. The passion each team member brings daily to each and every guest interaction — and seeing the joy the guest has in their visit — makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?
With so many great hotels and restaurants here in Pittsburgh, we need to have the ability to train people in the finer points of hospitality and great service. We need to have a culinary school and/or hospitality school to help our workforce keep up with the demands of the growth of new hotels and restaurants in Pittsburgh.
What’s been bugging you lately?
Why is there no grocery store in Lawrenceville? I’d be happy to give up an overpriced condo just so I don’t have to drive to Shadyside for some milk. Come on Giant Eagle, get on the ball! Hey Jeff Bezos, build a Whole Foods in Lawrenceville; I’m a Prime member. Take more of my money!
Favorite Pittsburgh brewery?
Podcast you’re addicted to?
Currently, it’s the Dave Chang Show from restaurateur Dave Chang of Momofuku. His podcast hits a broad range of topics — food, sports, art and health — and always in a funny and smart yet accessible manner and always bringing it back to the hospitality business. The episodes detailing the opening of his new Momofuku location in Los Angeles really helped me get through the trials and tribulations of the opening of The Oaklander this past fall.
What song in your playlist is on endless repeat?
“Eyes Of The World” by the Grateful Dead. It’s my favorite song and always puts a smile on my face.
Your not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?
As someone who loves vinyl records, I really enjoy going to The Government Center on the North Side. There are a lot of record stores in Pittsburgh, but for me, The Government Center has a great selection of music genres and a great vibe.
Write three words to describe Pittsburgh:
Welcoming, surprising, creative.
What’s one thing you would love to change about Pittsburgh?
I am sure it has been said before, but I would change the weather from October to March. Going through my first Pittsburgh winter last year, the constant gray skies got a bit life-sucking. Although it’s great to see how many Pittsburghers get outside at the slightest sign of good weather. I love all the trails to bike and walk along by the rivers, rain or shine.
It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?
This may sound morbid, but my girlfriend and I really enjoy taking long strolls in Allegheny Cemetery. It’s an amazingly beautiful green space in Lawrenceville, and a great respite from the goings-on around Butler Street. It’s amazing to see the wildlife from deer to foxes to wild turkeys, just steps away from Butler.
Who should be the unofficial Mayor of Pittsburgh?
Eileen French Jordan from Revive Marketing. To me, it seems like nothing happens in Pittsburgh without Eileen. Mayor may not be the right title. Queen of Pittsburgh?
Where will we find you this Saturday night?
On the beach outside of Charleston, S.C. with a great group of old friends celebrating life and relaxing!
See who else is NEXT Up here.
Have a NEXT Up suggestion? Email us!