Michael White and Ahmass Fakahany, the owners and operators of Altamarea Group in New York City, have been selected by Restaurant Hospitality as the 2015 recipients of the Richard Melman Innovator of the Year Award. They will be honored during the MUFSO Super Show in Dallas on September 21.
“We are thrilled that Michael White and Ahmass Fakahany will be accepting the Melman Award this year,” said Restaurant Hospitality editor-in-chief Michael Sanson. “When you combine White’s finesse in the kitchen with Fakahany’s skill as a numbers cruncher, it’s easy to see why Altamarea Group has been such a huge success. Together they embody Rich Melman’s commitment to create restaurants that excite both customers and accountants.”
Melman, whom Restaurant Hospitality has declared the “greatest restaurant concept creator of all time,” is the founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago. He’s elated to be presenting this year’s award to someone he’s long admired.
“I’ve been eating Michael’s food since he was the chef at Spiaggia. I think he is one of the most talented Italian chefs in the country. I’m happy to be presenting this award to him and Ahmass.”
White, a Wisconsinite, landed his first job out of culinary school at Chicago’s famed Spiaggia, where he earned a four-star review from the Chicago Tribune. But his love for Italian cuisine was cemented in Italy during a seven-year culinary exploration of all the country offered. That journey eventually led him to New York where his outstanding cooking at Fiamma Osteria brought him to the attention of Manhattan’s culinary elite. Eventually, that gig led to the creation of several other restaurants and the formation of Altamarea Group. For his culinary efforts, White has been a multiple nominee for a James Beard Award for Best Chef, New York City.
Fakahany, who is Altamarea’s c.e.o, was a former president and c.o.o of Merrill Lynch & Co. He would often entertain Merrill clients at Fiamma. It’s there he met White and the two became fast friends. In early 2008, Fakahany resigned from Merrill to use his considerably financial skills to help White create and build Altamarea Group.
Altamarea restaurants include Marea (seafood), Due Mari (modern Italian), Ai Fiori (coastal cuisine), Nicoletta (a pizzeria), The Butterfly (casual fare and cocktails), Crop Shop (butcher shop cuisine in London) and Al Molo (classic Italian in Hong Kong). Some concepts have multiple units, including Osteria Morini (food from the Emilia-Romagna region), Ristorante Morini (upscale Italian) and Costata (a steakhouse). Because of its impressive portfolio, Altamarea was featured in Restaurant Hospitality’s Top 25 Coolest Multiconcept Companies in the Land (September, 2014). For his culinary efforts, White has been a multiple James Beard Awards nominee for Best Chef, New York City.
The Richard Melman Innovator of the Year Award recipients were selected by the editors of Restaurant Hospitality after consulting with Melman. Other recipients of the award include Jose Andres, Danny Meyer, Michael Mina, Drew Nieporent and Stephen Starr.