Over the weekend, the Times dropped a monster profile of chef Michael White's money man, former Merrill Lynch exec Ahmass Fakahany. The article notes that in the next year, White and Fakahany "hope to open at least five more restaurants in locations as varied as the East Village of Manhattan and the Las Vegas Strip."
The East Village project is Nicoletta, White's pizzeria which is slated to open this May, and of course the Altamarea Group has already announced The Butterfly, a new non-Italian concept that will open in Tribeca this summer. There's no further details yet on the Las Vegas restaurant, but the article notes that "there is talk of Istanbul," and Eater hears from a reliable source that White might be expanding the New Jersey outpost of Osteria Morini to include another restaurant next door, although the Altamarea Group has yet to confirm or deny that the deal is a go.
Aside from all this expansion excitement, the Times profile also offers several fascinating tidbits about Fakahany's transition from Wall Street exec to wildly successful NYC restaurateur:
A few interesting tidbits:
· Fakahany first met White at Fiamma in 2004, where he used to entertain clients.And, perhaps the most interesting part of the story: after Fakahany invested in Due Terre, he helped negotiate White's contract with Chris Cannon, the restaurateur that he teamed up with for Alto, L’Impero/Convivio, and Marea. The deal apparently "included clauses that would enable Mr. White to exit the venture early and to pursue other opportunities." Presumably, Fakahany's work was a crucial part of the monster breakup between White and Cannon that split their empire in White's favor.
· In 2006, Fakahany agreed to back White's Due Terre in NJ (now Osteria Morini).
· Fakahany tapped former Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital employees to work in the Altamarea Group's office. He also offers "deferred cash bonuses" to keep managers and sommeliers in the group.
· Fakahany employs his former Merrill Lynch driver now to "shuttle around most everything, from clients to crates of wine."
· Once, Fakahany got British Airways executives to pay for their multi-thousand dollar tab in plane tickets, which he then gave to his staff.
· Marea serves wine and olive oil from CitiGroup chairman Richard D. Parsons's personal vineyard in Tuscany.
· In 2011, Altamarea earned $50 million in revenue, as opposed to $3 million in 2008.
· Out of One Frying Pan, and Into Another [NYT]
· All Coverage of Michael White [~ENY~]
[Photo: NYT/Susanne Craig]