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After a few years, I was done when the guys running the rides didn’t do anything about making it better.

There we had a very good run. A year after I opened that, I opened Rouge Nightclub in June of 1994.

Talk about your out of the box thinking at your Queens diner. I then went back with my Dad, who had just opened the Hilltop Diner in Flushing. We took a very unorthodox approach to the menu by bringing in Gabrielle Moran, who was the chef at a three-star New York Times restaurant. There was this writer named Daniel Young, who just happened to stumble on Hilltop Diner but he couldn’t get a table on a Friday night without a reservation. That was so fascinating to him that he put me on the cover of Daily News Magazine. That helped Hilltop Diner become a big success. With that, I opened Gotham Diner in 1993 with Gabrielle Brand on 81st Street and Second Avenue. It was basically a copy of Fog City Diner. It was elevating the diner to a really edgy, cool concept.

You were one of the very early Internet retailers, how did that come to pass? I then took New York’s famous Fulton Fish Market to the Internet in 1996, with fultonstreet.com. I took that from just two employees to 185. I kept hearing this buzz about keywords, so I bought 150 of them. My vision was to take the Fulton Fish Market direct to the consumer sort of like Omaha Steaks. It was a huge success and a big lesson was learned. One thing I got out of it was the largest order for $140,000 and that was from Michael Bloomberg. When I closed down, Bloomberg said, “Those king crabs that you sent me at my house in Westchester, were so amazing I want you to keep Randall’s Island and I want you to do my whole employee appreciation picnic for 10,000 people.”

How did you create Philippe Chow? In 2003, I got introduced to Mr. Chow. I loved the restaurant, but hated the customer service. At the time, I had just started dating the Accessories Director at Vogue Magazine Filipa Fino who would go on to be my wife. So anytime I would go to Mr. Chow, it would either be with Anna Wintour, David Bowie and those types of Alisters. I was at a table with all these people because of my wife. One night at Mr. Chow, I asked the manager for the menu and asked why every time I would order the same thing, my bill would be different. They were rude about it and said never come back here again. I was, like, really, after all the money I’ve spent? I took my business card I gave it to the busboy and said give this to your chef. The next day Philippe Chow called me. I basically said, “Listen, I want to make you my partner.” He said, “I’ve been

offered many partnerships. I’ve been at this job for 25 years. What do you know, what can you offer me that’s different?” I took a page out of Tommy Mottola’s book, who was the former head of Sony Music. He told me whenever he had a problem signing a new artist, he’d send them a brand new Ferrari with a contract inside. It always worked. I gave Philippe Chow my offer to get 10% equity and 20% above his salary, but he wasn’t moved. Then I said what about if we go to Roslyn Porsche? He said, “If you show me a Porsche, I’ll be your partner.” So he picked out his new Cayenne and the moral of the story is that the $775 a month lease is what closed the deal and not the 10% equity, which was tens of thousands of dollars per month. So in 2005, we opened up Philippe Chow, which became the highest grossing restau-

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Profile for Total Food Service

July 2019 - Total Food Service  

From totalfood.com - Total Food Service's July 2019 Digital Issue features an exclusive Q&A Interview with restaurateur & author Stratis Mor...

July 2019 - Total Food Service  

From totalfood.com - Total Food Service's July 2019 Digital Issue features an exclusive Q&A Interview with restaurateur & author Stratis Mor...