Behind The Z
Benjamin Robertson moved from his Kansas hometown to Chicago after college and fell in love with the Windy City’s vibrant food and beverage scene. He honed his hospitality and management chops — and earned his Sommelier certification — during four years with the Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group and another four at the Loews Chicago Hotel. For six months in between, he ran a dinner series, which nurtured his knack for hosting the perfect party. At Z Bar, Robertson oversees all operations and the guest experience.
Director of Cocktails & Culture
Vlad Novikov’s purposeful approach to mixology was shaped by his study of chemistry and classics at Augustana College. Before joining Z Bar, he spent four years with LKH Management where he oversaw four new bar concepts. Novikov, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, is the mixology-minded creative force at Z Bar, in charge of crafting the one-of-a-kind cocktails and experiential programming that define the lounge’s culture.
Chef Toni Robertson
After eight years of service with the US Air Force, Toni Robertson left the military and enrolled at the Culinary and Hospitality Institute of Chicago beginning her culinary career. A native of Burma, Robertson is The Peninsula Hotels’ first female executive chef. Her culinary career, which spans three decades, has taken her back around the world, from Singapore to South Africa. At The Peninsula Chicago, she leads the restaurant and pastry kitchens, banquets and room service. Chef Toni created and oversees Z Bar’s globally inspired cuisine.
Born in Germany, David Gonzalez studied at Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Marbella Spain and went on to earn a hospitality management degree from Kendall College in Chicago. After joining The Peninsula Chicago in 2012, Gonzalez held various roles, most recently manager of The Bar, and is instrumental in managing the daily operations at Z Bar.
Regional VP and General Manager
Under Maria Zec’s leadership as Regional Vice President and first-ever female General Manager of The Peninsula Hotels, The Peninsula Chicago has earned more than 16 years’ worth of Five Star and Five Diamond awards. The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd Board of Directors has honored select leaders in the company by naming restaurants or bars after them. Zec's passion for creating memorable experiences for hotel guests and patrons earned her the namesake of Z Bar.
Originally from northwest Indiana, Maria considers Chicago her home town, but she is also a world traveler. Zec’s travel companions are her husband Bob and, on occasion, her beloved pugs, Duchess and Tulip.