Gina Luari (center) has enlisted chefs Mo Major (left) and Xavier Santiago (right) to lead The Statement Group's culinary program.
The Statement Group

Gina Luari (center) tapped chefs Mo Major (left) and Xavier Santiago (right) to lead the culinary program at The Statement Group.

Connecticut Restaurateur Teams Up with 'Chopped' Champs

Gina Luari, the CEO of The Place 2 Be—an all-day brunch restaurant with multiple locations—has launched her restaurant group, The Statement Group (TSG). TSG will house several bold restaurant concepts including The Place 2 Be and will focus on developing inspired culinary programs and guest experience design.

At the helm of TSG’s culinary team will be Food Network “Chopped” champions chef Xavier Santiago as culinary director and chef Mo Major as assistant culinary director. Both previously held respective leadership roles with The Place 2 Be and will be moving to TSG to lead and oversee the culinary programming of all restaurant concepts.

“With major expansion in the works, the formation of The Statement Group is a natural next step for us,” Luari says. “The concepts and culinary direction we have in development will bring even more creativity and boldness to the Connecticut and Massachusetts restaurant scenes, and with chef Xavier Santiago and chef Mo Major taking the lead on the culinary ideation and development, we know it will be sexy and delicious, as chef X says.”

Santiago is a seasoned chef experienced in many types of cuisine, from Asian (Japanese and Thai) to Mediterranean (French, Italian, Greek, and Spanish) and Caribbean, a background which informs his unique culinary style. In 2019, Santiago won Food Network’s “Chopped” competition, beating out three other chefs. He has been part of The Place 2 Be’s leadership team as the restaurant’s culinary director since August 2021.

“For the last eight months, I have been leading a team of talented and hardworking chefs and elevating The Place 2 Be’s menu offerings,” Santiago says. “Now, in my new role as culinary director of TSG, I can’t wait to build out even more concepts and teams to serve the Connecticut and Massachusetts dining scenes.”

Recently joining The Place 2 Be’s culinary team, chef Mo Major will be coming on board TSG as assistant culinary director. A champion of Food Network’s “Chopped” like Santiago, Major brings with him years of experience having notably previously worked at bartaco for nearly two years, both in its Westport and Stamford locations, as well as at the Huguenot Yacht Club.

“I am ecstatic to be a part of such a creative, audacious, and well-loved team,” says chef Mo Major, adding, “Working alongside chef Xavier will be a dream given both our shared experiences and differences, paving the way for punchy culinary programs with tons of personality—just like us and TSG’s restaurant brands. I look forward to bringing to the table lots of ideas and helping lead the team to success.”

With offices under construction at 57 Pratt Street in Hartford, Connecticut, TSG is gearing up to reopen The Place 2 Be’s newly renovated South End location (on Franklin Avenue in Hartford) while continuing to repair its downtown Hartford restaurant post-fire and completing construction of the Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, eateries.

The following 18 months will see the opening of multiple restaurant concepts—other than The Place 2 Be—in Connecticut under TSG. Though all different in concept, they will all don the bold and audacious marketing for which The Place 2 Be has come to be known.

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by WTWH Media LLC.