Alberto Zandi ’13
Alberto came to St. Johnsbury Academy as a boarding student from Spain in April, 2013 and moved into Brantview. He said, “Everyone was very open and helpful when I joined in the middle of the year. I had only been to the United States twice before coming to school here.” Having left a challenging situation at a private school in the United Kingdom, Alberto said, “It was not my choice to attend SJA, however once I was there, I learned how much I needed the transition in my life. SJA allowed me to wake up. St. Johnsbury is much less stimulating than London and it gave me a clearer mind and room to grow.”
Social studies teacher and soccer coach Steve Levesque had a strong impact on Alberto during his time at SJA. He said, “I would learn psychology every day of that year. I almost studied it in college. Mr. Levesque did a great job of mixing theory and practice and showed real world examples. I loved his class.” Alberto also mentioned John Lovett ‘01 as being a kind dorm proctor during his senior year in the Green Dorm, and Beth Choinere, former Assistant Headmaster for Campus Life, as being a “very good influence during my time at SJA. She had the right combination of being tough but fair.”
After graduating in 2014, Alberto attended Queen Mary University of London for his undergraduate degree in business management and later received his masters in computer science. He then attended University College London for his second master’s degree in technology management. While earning this degree, Alberto worked nearly full time. He said, “I had a lot of free time while at university, and instead of living a typical university life, I worked. While I juggled work and school, I found a balance and was able to work for a great consulting company before graduating. This set me up for my current success.”
Now, Alberto and his twin brother, Arian, own a company together. Emerald Hospitality Group was founded in 2018 and has grown to 215 employees. Serving as co-founders, Alberto and Adrian have opened three restaurants in London and plan to open three more. The first, Zuaya, opened in 2018 and draws on Latin American dishes with Brazilian, Peruvian, and Mexican cuisine. The second, Como Garden, is focused on Italian food. Their third restaurant opened in November of 2021 and is called El Norte. The focus is high end Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on working closely with Spanish suppliers to source authentic ingredients.
In 2022 and 2023 Alberto said “We are planning to open three more restaurants, focusing on French, Japanese, and Greek-style foods. Once these are open, we are looking to expand into Dubai and other areas where we see a need and market.” He explained that each of his restaurants focus on a particular culture, and the atmosphere, menu items, and décor are all centered around that theme. Each is carefully planned for an authentic representation of each culture and location. Alberto joked, “I am busier than any friends my age.”
When asked what it is like to co-found a company with his twin, Alberto said, “Being schooled in Vermont helped me open my mind in so many ways. St. Johnsbury is a small town with no distractions, and I was able to meet local and international people. Going to SJA was the first time being away from my twin and the competition that comes with that. Because I came to SJA and my brother stayed in school in London, we think differently and that makes us a good team.”
Turning 26 in April 2022, Alberto reflected on lessons learned at SJA and in college: “You are living for you. Not your brother, mother, or father. For you. That is something I did not understand until going to SJA. Also, there is no perfect recipe for success. I am where I am today due to a mix of strategy and the stars aligning so I was in the right place at the right time.”