He's appeared in Dolce and Gabbana and Burberry ads, he's been featured in print in nothing but his undies, and he boasts at least eight abs in his pack. And now, model and chef Franco Noriega is also about to have two new restaurants in New York City, with menus based in part on the healthy food he likes to eat to maintain his picturesque figure. The Peruvian model and Instagram darling (height 6'1.'5", eyes: hazel; followers: 90.7K; email signature: "Stay Gold") will be opening the doors on a small Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant in the Lower East Side called Baby Brasa on May 26. Later this year, a larger version of the restaurant — named just "Brasa" — will be opening in South Williamsburg. "This is the type of food that I'm always craving," Noriega says. "I go to the gym, and I’m hungry, and I really want to have a great meal. This is perfect for that."
Noriega has spent the last eight years mostly working as a model, but he's been spent time in the kitchen, too. He attended school at the International Culinary Center and has worked as a private chef and as a line cook at Bar Boulud. He also owns two restaurants in Peru, higher end spots called Loreta. "You know, I come from a culinary background," Noriega says. "My parents owned different restaurants in Peru and Lima, where I’m from. We’re such a gastronomic capital." When he got out of culinary school, he knew he wanted to open something in New York, too.
Brasa, at 317 Wythe Ave., was supposed to open first, but due to delays won't debut until later this year. It will be a casual, 85-seat restaurant with a '70s aesthetic, a juice bar, and a chef's table-style seating near the kitchen. He decided to do Baby Brasa, at 129 Allen St., because he was tired of waiting on permits for the Williamsburg location and wanted to get going with his cooking. It's smaller and will only seat 12 people, focusing on to-go and delivery.
The food will be similar for both. Peruvian rotisserie chicken will be the focus, though sandwiches with the chicken will be available as well. Seasonal sides and appetizers will include items like quinoa, avocado toast, sweet potato fries, and rice and beans. All of it will be "super clean," Noriega says. "I’m used to eating clean and healthy," he says. "I’m basically doing that here." Chickens will be organic, free-range birds, which can be double the price of other chickens, but he never eats non-organic chicken himself. "I'm not serving anything that I don't eat," he says.
Once the restaurants start going, Noriega will be spending more time in the kitchen and less time in front of the camera, he says. Still, he doesn't plan to quit modeling. "The restaurant business is very demanding, and I'm really focused 100 percent in it," he says. "But I believe there's time for everything."