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Men of Westport

Some of Our Favorite Guys

Where we live, a good man isn’t hard to find. You can find them in offices, stores, theaters - heck, you could even be living with one.

Each June we task ourselves with narrowing down the pack and focusing on a few who impress us with their creativity and commitment, who bring a certain panache to our community, and who have diverse and unique interests.

At the risk sounding immodest, we have a lot of terrific men this year!

Enrique Alarcon

Founder/Director, Dance Collective of Westport 

What do you love about dancing?

“When I first started dancing I loved the sense of freedom and empowerment. Now it goes far beyond that. For me, dancing is a way of communicating with others, a shared love to make friends with, a passion to build a business with, and a canvas to create moving art with.”

You attended law school in Peru before you decided to pursue dance in America. Has your law education ever proved valuable since then?

“Yes, although not through practicing law. The hard work and discipline I learned in law school proved invaluable when starting my business and continue to help me today.”

When will you launch your master class?

“Hopefully in the near future. So much changed when COVID hit – I had to pivot from running a studio in-person to creating a completely online presence. My personal projects were shelved but I am eager to start working on them again and reigniting the creativity they inspire.”

If you could dance the role of your dreams, or dance in any venue in the world, what would it be and why?

“More than dancing myself, I would love to choreograph an opening number for the Oscar’s. The Dolby Theater is such an iconic venue, and to present one of my choreographies to such a creative audience (not to mention millions around the world) would be phenomenal. On another note, I would love Rihanna to sing a tango-inspired pop song, and for me to be the principal dancer in her video!”

Bill Taibe

Chef/Owner, The Whelk, Kawa Ni, and Don Memo 

So, what's your next project?

“After many years in CT, we are excited to expand Kawa Ni and Don Memo out west to Denver, Colorado, while still working on new projects in and around Westport. The future looks fun!”

Have you always known you wanted to be a chef?

"I didn’t. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I was going to be a police officer like my uncles, or a US Marshall like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Once I found food, I didn’t want to do anything else.”

What’s your favorite appetizer and entrée of all time, in any of your restaurants?

“Appetizer would be our Tuna Crudo from Relish in South Norwalk - paper thin slices of raw tuna, rolled around perfectly diced cucumber and avocado and some other really complicated stuff. So simple and so delicious. Entree is definitely the OG roast chicken from LeFarm. Still no better chicken exists in my mind.”

What do you cook at home when you really, really don’t feel like cooking? Or your favorite super easy dinner.

“In the winter, especially when skiing and don’t want the hassle, I will make Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi tossed with their roasted red pepper and tomato pomodoro sauce. It’s simply perfect.

“As the weather warms, I like to grab some vegetables from Westport Farmers Market, toss them on the grill, and serve with a good salad. We tend to eat lighter in the summer.”

Ryan Soto

Program Director, Gillespie Center & Hoskins Place

What made you interested in working for a homeless shelter? 

“I grew up impoverished, rough and tough, but I always tried to see the brighter things. The selfish reason is that I like helping people and I’m good at it. I can empathize - sympathy can only get you so far.

“I’ve been working with the homeless since I earned my undergraduate degree. I have had family and friends endure this situation and I know how it must feel going through homelessness.”

What has been your proudest moment at Gillespie?

“My proudest moment was actually becoming the Program Director of the Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place.”

How do you de-stress from this demanding job?

“I have a nice scenic drive to and from work and spending time with my children.

During the course of your everyday life, have you ever run into someone who you helped at Gillespie?

“I’ve seen former guests of the shelter and most tell me they’re doing great and let me know how much they appreciate all I did. The others unfortunately either return to the shelter or need some type of help. I help them as best as I can.”

Injae Cho

Founder and Principal, SUGI Accupressure

You’re well-educated, an accomplished musician, and a winning golfer. How do these traits tie into your proficiency with traditional Chineses medicine?

“To me, traditional Chinese medicine is all about discerning predictable patterns in nature and then drawing analogies to how our bodies and our minds function. And by incorporating concepts like Yin-Yang (duality of opposites) and Chi (life force energy) into our lifestyles, we're essentially acknowledging that to lead a healthy life means to be in harmony with our ever-evolving surrounding environment, and with the people in our lives.

“I feel that that's exactly the kind of holistic perspective I take whether I'm giving someone a treatment, or when I'm sharing something musical and beautiful with a fellow musician or an audience, or when I'm taking windy conditions and moisture on the greens into account in a round of golf. It took me a while to convince my wife that playing music and golf actually enhances my work. I think she finally sees my point.”     

If you didn’t practice acupressure, what would be your career?

“A sound engineer or a golf club pro, naturally.”

Your dad is a well known healer in Asia. I’m sure he’s delighted you’re following his career path, but how does he feel about your being in a Grateful Dead tribute band? I assume he was never a deadhead….

“My dad and I have very different musical tastes and he unfortunately doesn't play golf either. But we jibe on most other things and have always been transparent and candid with each other. Most of all, I appreciate all the life wisdom he's imparted on me over the years.”

Adam Vengrow

Managing Director, Stifel

Board Member, Catch A Lift

You’re a board member of Catch-A-Lift. How did you become interested in helping veterans and in CAL?

"I lost a lot of friends in 9-11. I was at UBS. Cantor Fitzgerald and other bond brokers were in the Trade Center Buildings. We were on the phones with them when the planes hit. I’ve always been patriotic and thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had in this life, in this country, with an immeasurable blanket of freedom. I feel it’s an obligation to help those that preserve and protect our way of life. 

"The spirit behind CAL is physical fitness to mental fitness, pain to purpose. We have helped nearly 8,000 combat wounded Veterans find their way."

How about myTeam Triumph? 

"I had the pleasure of getting involved [through friend and board member Andy Berman] a little bit and love it. I live for the ability to lift people up and help them pursue their very best. One of my favorite quotes, “You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.”

Who is your hero? 

"Ron Burton grew up in Ohio, very poor, and lost his parents at a young age. He overcame adversity his entire life, whether racism, extreme poverty or the lack of athletic talent, then became a college football star and a first round draft pick for the New England Patriots in 1960.

"After 6 years in the NFL, and a very successful career for John Hancock in Boston, Ron Burton took his savings and built the Ron Burton Training Village.  The goal [is] to find as many kids from terrible economic situations, where hope rarely exists and opportunity is not present, and turn their lives around to overcome the present and find the impossible. "

Ryan Ambrifi

Dealer and Principal, Jaguar Land Rover Fairfield

Why (and when) did you become interested in British cars? And all things British? 

“My love affair with British cars started with Ian Fleming's James Bond books and movies. There was always something so cool about his Aston Martins, Lotuses and Jaguars. The design of the Jaguar E-Type is one of the most captivating in the world.”

Tell me about the first car you ever owned.  

“My first car was a Pontiac Trans Am (think Smokey and the bandit), which my mother suggested that I trade for a BMW 320i. This started my journey to buying and selling many different cars over the years.”

You’re active in Push for Cancer and, I believe, Near and Far. Are there any other philanthropies and why did you choose these?

“We have a long relationship with Near & Far Aid and support the incredible impact that this all woman organization has in the community. In addition, we have aligned with Push For Cancer and Andy Berman, the Pequot Library, Rooms With a View, the Southport Congregational Church, as well as The Conservative Synagogue. Most recently, we got involved with the Old Mill Grocery and saving this local treasure for future generations. 

“My wife, Nikki, and I choose organizations that can effect change locally and have a direct impact in helping change lives. We are very fortunate to give back to our community and tie into the strong relationships with our customers.”

Dr. Joseph B. O’Connell

Plastic Surgeon

What drew you to plastic surgery?      

“Much to my parents displeasure I turned down an art scholarship to college in order to pursue a career in science. While in medical school I realized that plastic surgery is really the only specialty that combines art with science, as we try to do everything in the most "aesthetic" way possible. We actually have drawing and sculpture courses as part of our ongoing training." 

You were the chief of plastic surgery at Bridgeport Hospital from 1995-2002, when it was considered the “ground-breaking center of excellence in plastic surgery.” Why was it “ground-breaking” and how did you contribute to this?  

“This was one of the first centers of excellence in any specialty in the US. I wanted our patients to be able to find what they needed in terms of plastic surgical care in one easy location with talented surgeons - we had a central phone number where our patients could call in and we'd send them information by mail in those days.

“An important part of this was the entire concept of ‘self-pay' where our patients could get the care they needed with the safety of the hospital at reasonable cost where there was no insurance coverage available."

You’re an avid car collector. Which car is your favorite?  

“Last year purchased a Shelby 350R - this is the last one that will ever be made and it drives more like a true race car than any other car I've ever owned.”

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