A famous sommelier was charged with two felony counts of arson after he was caught starting three fires in New York City in early January, including two in outdoor dining areas.
Caleb Ganzer, 35, was caught on security camera footage around 3 a.m. on July 13 setting fire to the food shed at Prince Street Pizza.
The alleged arsonist is a well-known wine expert, one of the Food and wineSommeliers of the Year 2017. He previously worked as a sommelier at New York’s Eleven Madison Park, which some critics have called one of the world’s best restaurants.
He is not accused of setting fire to buildings related to La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, the restaurant where he is managing partner.
Authorities have not released a possible motive for the arson.
In one video, a man, later identified as Ganzer, walks towards a wooden structure in the empty street.
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Caleb Ganzer, 35, has been charged with two counts of third-degree arson, two counts of third-degree criminal mischief and three counts of second-degree reckless danger
Popular New York sommelier was caught on surveillance cameras setting fire to an outdoor dining area
Footage captured as Ganzer casually walks to the outside structure and lights the two napkin dispensers at each end
He then casually walks away while the structure continues to burn
After checking that he is alone, he casually pulls out a lighter and sets a napkin dispenser on fire. He then walks over to him and sets fire to the other napkin dispenser on the other side of the shed.
The arsonist then casually walks down the street.
Officials have also linked Ganzer to two other fires set earlier this year. On June 26, he is said to have started a garbage fire on the corner of Broome and Center Streets.
The first fire was started on January 8, when Ganzer set fire to the outdoor Forsythia restaurant on Stanton Street shortly before midnight.
Fire officials announced Wednesday that sommelier Ganzer had been arrested and charged with two counts of third-degree arson, two counts of third-degree criminal mischief and three counts of second-degree reckless danger.
The owner of Forsythia, Jacob Siwak, told the… New York Times on Wednesday that a well-dressed man in a cap and scarf attempted to set fire to the exterior structure of the Italian restaurant four times over the course of at least nine days in January.
Surveillance camera footage recorded as the man unpacked his backpack, placed a pile of kindling next to the trash that had been outside the night before, and then set fire to the kindling repeatedly. The man then waited for a major fire before running away.
Several of the man’s attempts were successful, two of which were ‘quite damaging’. Another resulted in flames shooting up two stories and threatening to spread to the restaurant and the rest of the building.
The fires caused Siwak $3,500 in damage as he had to rebuild the outdoor dining structure, which is now fire retardant.
Ganzer set fire to the outdoor dining area of Prince Street Pizza on July 13
He has also been linked to fires at another nearby restaurant, Forsythia in Januray, and a June garbage fire.
Tony Sosa, manager of Prince Street Pizza, told the New York Times that while the damage was not as severe as the destruction of Forsythia, it “could have been very dangerous.”
While no one was injured in these fires, “any arson has the potential to spread quickly, endangering the lives of New Yorkers and FDNY members,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said of Ganzer’s crimes.
“Fortunately, there were no injuries in these incidents and the suspect was arrested before the fire could start again.”
Men are responsible for an estimated 80% of arson attacks, according to the FBI. Fire officials did not specify what motive Ganzer might have had for starting the fires.
The case will be prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Ganzer is a managing partner at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, located a few blocks from the fires
Ganzer is a managing partner at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels on Center Street, near where the fires were started.
He did not start any fires there, officials said.
La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels has issued a statement stating: ‘We as a company are aware of the incident and Mr Ganzer is on leave.’
The alleged arsonist was named as one of Food and winewas 2017 Sommeliers of the Year and previously worked as a sommelier at Eleven Madison Park, which has been considered one of the best restaurants in the world.
They credited the Illinois native for creating “a space where guests who aren’t “wine people” can casually drink great wines by the glass. His background in fine dining is reflected in his attentive service (rare in wine bars), while his more playful side shows up in regular wine-themed parties and Company’s ‘guess-the-wine, win-a-bottle’ game.’
In a recent interview with Sommelier company, Mr Ganzer spoke of investing in the outdoor dining space of La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels after what he called the “rollercoaster” of the pandemic, a period he described as “kind of existentially crippling.”