Billion Dollar Buildings & A Boutique Bakery

Hello, I’m Peter Ricchiuti, host of Out to Lunch. You might wonder what a property developer with billion dollar buildings & a boutique bakery have in common. The answer is, personality. Let me explain.

Peter Ricchiuti's education at the dry cleaner leads him to billion dollar buildings

Peter Ricchiuti

I want to start out by telling you about an interesting observation I made recently at the dry cleaner. I happened to be standing at the counter when a guy wheeled a big rack of freshly cleaned men’s dress shirts out of the back. Almost every shirt was a shade of blue, or white, or some combination of blue and white.

I said to the guy, “Do you do all the blue and white dress shirts at the same time?” He said, “No. They’re all blue and white ‘cause that’s what everybody wears.”

Which is really striking. Think about how many shades of brown, orange, purple, green and every other color dress shirt men could wear. But we don’t.

The blue and white shirts observation spills over into business in general. And maybe life itself.  Although we’re all making our own individual unique decisions, those decisions by and large are confined to a narrow set of choices. Once in a while, however, you meet a person who has stepped outside those confines and made a bold and adventurous choice.

And that’s what I mean by billion dollar buildings & a boutique bakery sharing the same personality.

Billion Dollar Buildings

Meet Matt Schwartz. 

Billion dollar building developer Matt Schwartz

Matt Schwartz

Like many people, Matt goes to work in the morning. Probably in a blue or white shirt. But what Matt does at work is bolder and more adventurous than most of us could imagine. Matt is the CEO of a company called Domain Companies.

Matt co-founded the company out of college, in 2004, with his Tulane fraternity brother, Chris Papamichael. Chris and Matt set out to build affordable housing. Today they have developed over one billion dollars’ worth of real estate. They have 130 employees. And their 14 local projects include The South Market district in the CBD, The Meridian on Tulane Avenue, Gold Seal Lofts in Mid City, as well as 2 developments in Baton Rouge and 6 in New York.

Boutique Bakery

Christina Balzebre could have decided on a safe and secure career as an employee of some very fine establishments.

Boutique Baker, Levee's Christina Balzebre

Christina Balzebre

Christina started out as a baker at Satsuma Café in the Bywater. After that she worked for Donald Link and made a name for herself as the baker at Willa Jean. In 2019 Christina went into business for herself, opening a bakery just off of Magazine Street in the Garden District, called Levee.  Levee might be spelled the same as “levee” – as in flood wall – but in French Levee means “to rise.”

Unlike the saga of the New Orleans flood walls, Levee the bakery has been an immediate success. The bakery already has 8 employees and Christina is  “beyond excited at the prospect of having a day off.”

Entrepreneurs have a special quality that separates them from the rest of us. It’s a combination of courage, vision, dedication, charisma, and hard work. It’s that personality.

Billion dollar builder meets boutique baker at Commander's Palace

Matt Schwartz, Christina Balzebre, Peter Ricchiuti

Out to Lunch is recorded over lunch at Commander’s Palace restaurant. Photos by Jill Lafleur

See Matt Schwartz’s previous visit to Out to Lunch back in 2015, here.