When times are tough, creativity will save the day. And there may be no one more creative than Rich Melman, the genius behind Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a $100-million-plus Chicago company that has generated dozens of the country's best restaurant concepts for nearly 40 years. In the spirit of that creativity, Restaurant Hospitality and Melman, himself, presented this year's Richard Melman Concepts of Tomorrow Award to Jeffrey Chodorow.
Chodorow is the controversial, larger-than-life force behind New York City-based China Grill Management, which has created some of the world's sexiest restaurants. More than 20 years ago, Chodorow unveiled China Grill, which elevated Chinese cuisine from takeout in white paper cartons to a chic, sophisticated level.
At an awards ceremony during the Concepts of Tomorrow Conference, RH Editor Michael Sanson pointed out that Chodorow, much like Melman, is so far ahead of a trend, and often the creative force behind a trend, that it takes other restaurateurs years to catch up. He pointed to another Chodorow multi-unit concept, Asia de Cuba, which propelled the Asian-Latin fusion trend.
The similarities between Chodorow and Melman don't end there, Sanson explained. Both have fertile imaginations that can't be contained. Beyond the two concepts mentioned above, Chodorow has created numerous other exciting restaurant brands, including Red Square, Hudson Cafeteria, Social Hollywood, Tuscan Steak, Spoon, Ono, Rumjungle, Mix, Almond and Kobe Club. Sanson observed that all of these restaurant concepts have a transformative power to make everyone who visits feel better and cooler than when they arrived.
“When I started out in this business, I wanted to show that great food and great service could exist in a fun environment,” Chodorow explained after accepting the award from Melman. “Rich led the way with the types of restaurant concepts he created, so it's really an honor to get this award in his name.”
Acknowledging all of the amazing concepts Chodorow created over the years, Melman said Chodorow is clearly one of the country's great restaurateurs. “This award could just as well have your name on it,” Melman said, pointing to the bronze falcon award.