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Chodorow's Five-Year Plan


Megan Blocker
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Doree Shafrir profiled Jeffrey Chodorow in yesterday's Observer. At the outset, she summarizes his near-term plans...

There are his investments in two new restaurants on Broadway and 77th Street: a 90-seat Malaysian-themed coffeehouse with Fatty Crab co-owner Zak Pelaccio (who also runs Mr. Chodorow’s Borough Food & Drink on 22nd Street) and a 150-seat restaurant with Ouest’s celebrated chef and owner Tom Valenti, which Mr. Valenti told The Observer will be “open all day and all night. There are no grown-up bar-slash-restaurants up here.”

Then there’s what Ms. Bakhoum termed a “classic American steakhouse concept” in the Empire Hotel at 64th and Broadway. (“We’re just going to try to make phenomenal creamed spinach,” Mr. Chodorow said.) Mr. Chodorow is also planning on opening China Grills in Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Hawaii, Dubai and Moscow, as well a Kobe Club in Miami sometime next year. In Los Angeles, Mr. Chodorow is bringing the Citronelle chef Michel Richard from Washington, D.C., to help open a new incarnation of Mr. Richard’s old L.A. restaurant, Citrus, which closed in 1998. He also has two restaurants opening in hotels in the Dominican Republic, and what he calls a “big Italian project” in New York.

Finally, there’s his collaboration with racy men’s magazine Maxim for a series of Maxim steakhouses; the first will open in Atlanta early next year and he’s scouting for a New York location.

Quite a bit on his plate, no doubt. So many of the projects seem like theme restaurants, though, and Shafrir does touch on the question (raised in the piece by Eater's Ben Leventhal): are these really the kinds of places that will work in New York?

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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well, all of his restaurants have always been theme restaurants. most have been successful...including the NY ones:

places like Asia de Cuba, Tuscan Steak etc.

and lots of theme restaurants work in NY: Ruby Foo's, Tao (the second highest grossing restaurant in NY next to Tavern on the Green (making it about the fifth highest grossing restaurant in the country)...and, yes, Tao has more food than alcohol revenues, I checked), OIBLTIBS, etc.

they're just catering to B&T and tourists. the thing is, Chodorow, like Hanson or Starr, isn't aiming his restaurants at most NY'ers, let alone foodies, they're aimed squarely at the weekend B&T and tourists and the weekday expense account diners. so they work just fine here.

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The majority of NY restaurants are theme restaurants, and the majority of New Yorkers—not just B&T and tourists—think these restaurants are good. Some of them are good. As I recall, places like Asia de Cuba and China Grill got reasonably favorable reviews when they opened. Of course, they're running on autopilot now.

Several of Chodorow's new projects are variations on the steakhouse format, but if the last few years have proved anything in New York, it's that the saturation point on steakhouses hasn't yet been reached. More than any other, it's the format that almost never fails.

Some of the other projects have serious chefs doing the real creative work, such as Tom Valenti and Zak Pelaccio, with Chodorow just providing the bankroll. He seems to have a knack for getting these guys to work with him, despite his famous failures with Rocco DiSpirito and Alain Ducasse.

Chodorow has, in fact, had quite a few failures in New York. Besides the DiSpirito and Ducasse debacles, there's also Caviar & Banana, and Wild Salmon is something like the 3rd occupant of its location in 5 years. Eater put Kobe Club on deathwatch, and is constantly reminding us that you can get a table there (even a table for 8) anytime you want. I suspect Kobe Club is failing, and Chod just doesn't want to admit it.

But he has a large enough global empire that he can afford a failure or two, and there may be some loss leaders (like Kobe Club) that he is carrying. Having such a diversified portfolio allows you to do that.

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Today, ze Upper Vest Zide. Tomorrow...

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

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...Inwood? :wink:

Raji, one of the best parts of the profile (and by best I mean most entertaining), in my opinion, is the exchange Shafrir recounts between Chodorow and his PR rep (they're discussing just what you mention - the effect of The Restaurant on his reputation):

“I’ve had thousands of people stop me—it’s unbelievable, the number of people—and say, ‘You know what, in the beginning they made you seem like an ogre, but after I watched the whole show and after I really saw what was going on, you were 100 percent right.’ I never had one person say to me, ‘You screwed over Rocco.’ That never happened,” Mr. Chodorow added.

“Oh, you’re so sweet!” said Ms. Bakhoum. “He’s a mushy-mushy.” She said this in the cadence normally reserved for babies and poodles.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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...Inwood? :wink:

Raji, one of the best parts of the profile (and by best I mean most entertaining), in my opinion, is the exchange Shafrir recounts between Chodorow and his PR rep (they're discussing just what you mention - the effect of The Restaurant on his reputation):

“I’ve had thousands of people stop me—it’s unbelievable, the number of people—and say, ‘You know what, in the beginning they made you seem like an ogre, but after I watched the whole show and after I really saw what was going on, you were 100 percent right.’ I never had one person say to me, ‘You screwed over Rocco.’ That never happened,” Mr. Chodorow added.

“Oh, you’re so sweet!” said Ms. Bakhoum. “He’s a mushy-mushy.” She said this in the cadence normally reserved for babies and poodles.

:blink::blink: Yeah and A-Rod is in it for the love of the game, not the money.

"I got it!"

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