OF NOTE- People In The News: Monday, December 16

Pickup founder Gabriel Cepeda. Photo via Twitter

As online shopping flourishes in Brooklyn, package theft continues to flourish along with it. In fact, a recent New York Times report estimates that a whopping 90,000 packages disappear each day in New York City. A new Williamsburg-based startup is hoping to solve that problem. Twenty-three-year-old GABRIEL CEPEDA founded Pickups to pair online shoppers with neighbors willing to receive and hold packages until the rightful owner can pick them up. The service costs $5.99 per order and uses a shopping extension app to match vetted neighbors — mostly work-at-home freelancers and retired people — with online shoppers who require the service. Cepeda is focusing on Williamsburg to start but has plans to expand into Bedford-Stuyvesant and Greenpoint soon. 


Chef Lisa Fernandes. Photo via bravotv.com

Bushwick-based chef LISA FERNANDES is returning to TV this spring for a new season of Top Chef. Fernandes, the brains behind Sweet Chili along with business partner SEAN FLAHERTY, was first on the show in 2008, having been “discovered” by Bravo producers thanks to her standout work at some of the city’s top restaurants, including Asia de Cuba, Rain and Public. Her Sweet Chili venture started as a “Thaietnamese” food truck, which she ran for five years before opening a brick-and-mortar spot of her own in November. There, the cocktail lineup includes a “Liquid Pad Thai,” a savory drink with peanut butter whiskey, tamarind, orange bitters, basil and sriracha, along with other inventive delicacies. She hopes to bring that adventurous palate to the next season of Top Chef, which begins March 19 on Bravo. 


A Greenpoint resident is making a case for Santa with a few philosophical proofs usually reserved for proving the existence of God. “Beyond Belief: A Philosophical Proof of Santa Claus” is a project from filmmaker and theater producer JAMIE HOOK, who’s delivered the 90-minute presentation for five years running now, pointing out how the Christmas story is rooted in true historical events. “We establish a unitarian version of Santa Claus that works for everyone,” Hook told Brooklyn Paper. The pro-Santa presentation will be on Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Park Slope Co-op, 129 Russell St. 


A Brooklyn Rabbi is teaching anti-terrorism axe-throwing classes at Beth Jacob Ohev Sholom in Williamsburg. GARY MOSKOWITZ, a former NYPD officer and seventh degree black belt, is instructing pupils to stop a threat by tossing everything at it, from axes, to spears, bricks and dumbbells. He says he’s seen a spike in sign-ups from the Orthodox community since the anti-Semitic attack in Jersey City that killed four last week. “In a few lessons and with practice, this is the quickest way for Jewish people to have a chance to mitigate terror and murder,” Moskowitz told the New York Post. “At least they’ll have a fighting chance.”


Le Succulent chef Melanie Delcourt. Photo via lesucculent.com

At a Park Slope bistro, chef MELANIE DELCOURT is uniting West African and French cuisine in every dish. Delcourt, who grew up in Cameroon and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, opened Le Succulent along with her husband XAVIER DELCOURT in Brooklyn last December — unaware she could expect a post-holiday slump in business. “A bad time,” she told the New York Times. “Where are all the people?” But the Delcourts have held on, and a year later, are still introducing Park Slopers to salt cod fritters, smoky sea snails and spicy house made ginger juice rounded out with a touch of pineapple and vanilla, along with other French-inspired African specialties. Le Succulent is open now at 291 Fifth Ave. 


North Brooklyn Chamber President Paul Samulski. Photo via northbrooklynchamber.com

The North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce partnered with some local gymnasts to throw a memorable toy drive in Williamsburg last weekend. The eighth annual Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive featured spandex-clad performers springing and twirling through the air as a crowd of onlookers who’d come to drop off gifts gasped and cheered. “The event was successful not just because we raised money and collected toys … but also because it brought people and families together for a truly enjoyable experience during the holiday season,” said North Brooklyn Chamber President PAUL SAMULSKI, who spent many years working in the toy industry for companies like Matchbox and LJN Toys before joining the chamber. The Big Brooklyn Holiday Toy Drive has collected over 28,000 toys for needy local children since it began in response to Hurricane Sandy eight years ago. 

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