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Ex-Chef Cooks Up Business for Fairfield County Eateries

MaxEx Founder Linda Kavanagh, a former chef turned restaurant publicist.
MaxEx Founder Linda Kavanagh, a former chef turned restaurant publicist. Photo Credit: Submitted

STAMFORD, Conn. -- For a long time, cooking in the kitchen was all Stamford resident Linda Kavanagh did. A trained chef and caterer, she hung up her apron after 10 years to cook up something else -- a PR and Marketing firm that in January celebrated 20 years.

It's a journey Kavanagh admits she would never have expected -- and says would not have happened -- had the restaurant business not evolved the way it has.

And to think it all started with the Barcelona group in 1997 and the start of a new restaurant explosion in the then up and coming South Norwalk area.

Kavanagh left the cooking field in 1996 and joined the NYC-based Blackbird Group where she says she learned the business from "rock star publicist" Gary Stromberg.

After working for him --and promoting groups like rock and roll icons John Kay and Chuck Negron, as well as boy band royalty Boyz II Men-- she eventually branched out on her own, working with the premise of "know your audience."

A lifelong foodie, what she knew were restaurants.

So, when Barcelona came knocking, she was intrigued. “It was their first restaurant in the company and my first PR client on my own after leaving my firm in New York," said Kavanagh. 

“There weren’t nearly as many media outlets back then and social media wasn’t even an option. We relied on pure tenacity and customer relations.”

Fast forward to now.

MaxEx, her Stamford-based firm, has since worked with over 300 Connecticut and New York restaurants and international food and beverage brands such as Morton’s The Steakhouse, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, and WTC Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. Regionally, clients run the gamut from pizza joints (the famous Pepe’s Pizza) and farm-to-table cuisine to coffee houses and cocktail lounges.

“I’ve always believed that every restaurant has its place and every restaurant has something to offer," said Kavanagh.

Knowing the ropes from her years in the kitchen also means knowing what's possible.

“The idea that a restaurateur can successfully run a kitchen, manage the operations and the staff and attend to customers, all while implementing a cohesive marketing, PR, and social media campaign, is most often just not realistic," she said.

As such, MaxEx continues to evolve, adding Senior Associate Andrea Viscuso in 2012, Social Media Director Julie Webel in 2015 and Marketing Associate Kate Schlientz in 2017. 

Hospitality, however, remains the company's core focus, with additional lifestyle brands such as The Pure House, Lord & Taylor, and New York’s Woolworth Lobby Tours, also in the mix.

A quote on the MaxEx website pretty much sums up the company's philosophy: “Besides your mother, nobody wants to see you succeed more than your publicist.”

It’s a humorous, albeit, truthful statement from a woman who's still, after 20 years and counting, hungry for more.

Go to or follow the company at @maxexpr for more information.

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