Meet The Team Of Experts Behind Chicago's Unrivaled Rooftop Experience

Ben Robertson, Maria Zec, Vlad Novikov, Toni Robertson and David Gonzalez are the intriguing personalities fronting Z Bar, opening this June at The Peninsula Chicago


The personalities of Z Bar have come together to forge Chicago’s freshest rooftop destination for cocktails, culture and cuisine. Every member of the Z Bar team brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and finesse to the mixology-driven bar with awe-inspiring views, which opens in June.

The Intellectual: Leading the team is Bar Director Ben Robertson, who brings hotel, bar and restaurant management experience as well as Sommelier certification to Z Bar. “The level of creativity and passion that our team puts into every detail at Z Bar is impressive. For our guests, the experience is nothing short of extraordinary,” says Robertson.  The Illusionist: Vlad Novikov, the Director of Cocktails and Culture, is responsible for crafting the one-of-a-kind beverages and elevated experiences that define Z Bar. He joins Z Bar after four years at LKH Management, during which time he honed his mixology skills. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Novikov studied chemistry and classics in college, which helped shape his purposeful approach to mixology that showcases the spirit and the emotion behind the cocktail. At Z Bar, Novikov curates and leads classes, tastings and other interactive events, immersing guests in the ingredients and techniques that distinguish his refined, inimitable style. -more-

The Connoisseur: David Gonzalez, Bar Manager, comes to the team with an intimate knowledge of The Peninsula Chicago, having held various roles at the hotel since 2012, most recently as manager of The Bar. Gonzalez, who was born in Germany and speaks four languages, studied at Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Marbella, Spain and earned a hospitality management degree from Kendall College in Chicago. He is instrumental in managing the daily operations at Z Bar. The Perfectionist: Meanwhile, Chef Toni Robertson oversees the food program at Z Bar, melding vibrant flavors from Asia, Europe and the Americas. Her inventive menu of shared plates, best described as borderless, pairs beautifully with Novikov’s cocktail offerings. A native of Burma, Robertson served in the United States Air Force for eight years before attending the Culinary and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, where she graduated first in her class. Appointed in May 2017, Robertson is the first female Executive Chef for The Peninsula Hotels.  

The Pioneer/Trailblazer: The namesake of Z Bar, Maria Zec, has held the position of General Manager of The Peninsula Chicago since 2002, the first woman in Peninsula history to hold the post. Under her leadership, the hotel has garnered Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond awards for more than 16 years. In addition to her role as General Manager, Zec is the Regional Vice President for The Peninsula Hotels.

Other key contributors to Z Bar include Alyson Calagna, an internationally renowned music producer, who developed a soulful, global playlist exclusively for Z Bar; Chicago designer Daryl Sneed, one of Fashion Group International of Chicago’s “Rising Stars” who oversaw design of the staff uniforms; and Yabu Pushelberg, the interior design firm responsible for the unique, sophisticated design of Z Bar. Duchess, Zec’s beloved pet pug, plays a big part at Z Bar as well. Her image is playfully incorporated throughout the lounge as a design element.

Overlooking Chicago’s iconic Michigan Avenue, Z Bar and its influential leadership team craft dynamic culinary and cultural experiences for a wide audience of visitors and locals alike.