Several different reliable sources (some within the restaurant empire) report to Eater that superstar chef Michael White and his longtime business partner Chris Cannon are on the outs and headed towards divorce. White and Cannon will not yet comment on the allegation, and their now separate PR branches (somewhat telling) say there is nothing to report. Yet the shakeups are still coming to the restaurant empire which includes Convivio, Alto, Marea, and Osteria Morini. Negotiations have already begun and should be completed by the end of the month at the latest.
One tip-off is that a press release for Michael White's newest addition Ai Fiori today made no mention of Cannon and described the restaurant group thusly, "The Altamarea Group is primarily owned by partners Ahmass Fakahany and chef Michael White and is comprised of several properties in Manhattan including recent additions, Marea (2009) and Osteria Morini (2010)." Another clue: the two partners and Empire Builders of The Year weren't very amped to pose together at the Eater Awards.
Our sources tell us the split has been long-coming, starting almost seven months ago, as Michael White received more and more press for the success of Marea and Cannon was pushed out of the spotlight.
But how will the empire be divided? Multiple tipsters who have heard of the negotiations tell Eater that in the end, Chris Cannon—who teamed up with White after another very public divorce with Scott Conant—will end up with Alto and Convivio, restaurants he helped found. White and Altamarea group partner and money man Ahmass Fakahany are said to be taking control of the other restaurants and all future projects. How the Altamarea side will move on without the usual FOH man, and how Alto and Convivio will move on without their star chef remains to be seen.
As we know, White has expressed intentions to expand to Asia, and to perhaps develop concepts in other other cities – either some version of Osteria Morini or a ‘wichcraft-style grab-and-go parlor – and that Fakahany has a lot of faith in his potential for expansion. In a way, it would make sense, as White’s ambitions have always been larger than life, and he's become a press-magnet of sorts in the last year.
This is a minor tidbit, most likely nothing, but Cannon has been spotted around town dining with chef Alfred Portale, allegedly talking business. Whatever happens, we just hope it won't be as ugly as the Conant breakup.