While Rich Melman began his illustrious career in Chicago, and Joachim Splichal began his in Los Angeles, both men have demonstrated over the years that their growing empires would stretch far beyond their home bases. Though their paths have crossed over the years, the two industry titans recently met up again in Dallas at the MUFSO Supershow, where Splichal accepted The Richard Melman Innovator Award. The award was created more than a dozen years ago by the editors of Restaurant Hospitality to honor Melman, a man many consider to be the greatest restaurant concept creator of all time.
German born and trained in France, Splichal moved to Los Angeles in 1981 where he began to masterfully blend California and French cuisines. His first two restaurants—Seventh Street Bistro and Max Au Triangle—were instant hits. But his next restaurant, Patina, announced to the world that Splichal was a culinary force to be reckoned with. Patina has made Gayot’s list of the Top 40 U.S. Restaurants every year since 2004 and has been awarded a Michelin Star.
RH Editor Michael Sanson praised Splichal, saying that in a city that is obsessed with casual bistros, trattorias, food trucks and pop-up restaurants, Splichal quest to achieve the highest levels of culinary excellence has never waned. “Joachim has proven over the years that he’s one of the finest chefs this country has ever seen.”
Unlike so many chefs in this country, Splichal has also demonstrated that he understands the business side of running restaurants. His drive to grow an empire led him to famed restaurateur Nick Valenti, and their partnership eventually evolved into the Patina Restaurant Group. Today they operate more than 60 restaurants from coast to coast. “What’s missing today is a foundation,” Splichal said during a panel discussion following the awards ceremony. “Too many [chefs] just want to be on TV.”
Splichal proved that he was ready for prime time decades ago. In addition to his many restaurants, his company also operates a world-class catering division that has orchestrated meals for some of the country’s most prestigious events, including the Primetime Emmy Awards and The U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
He has won countless awards, including an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America; named the Best Chef in California by the James Beard Foundation; declared Restaurateur of the Year by Bon Appetit and The Food Network and hailed a Los Angeles Treasure by the mayor of L.A.
Melman, whose Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, said Splichal has always achieved and met the highest culinary standards, and the dining public has rewarded him for his efforts.
“It’s not about pleasing critics but pleasing the public,” he said later on a panel discussion. “You can never stand still. This is a marathon. You’re never done in the restaurant business.”
After more than 30 years of running top-flight restaurants in this country, Splichal has proven that he can not only run a marathon, he can win the long-distance culinary race.