You know that big, hot restaurant that opened up a few months ago downtown? The one that all [insert your city here] is abuzz about? Chances are that new restaurant is in a hotel or condominium. Nearly every major restaurant that has opened in the last year has been, and it’s likely to remain that way. The most ambitious new restaurant in America, Chicago’s L20, a true temple of gastronomy on the Michelin 3-star model, is located in a luxury apartment building. The same is true of New York’s Locanda Verde, Miami’s Eos, and the entire culinary Mecca that is Las Vegas. It’s just too expensive to build out a big, freestanding place, and too hard to get credit from the bank.
So how does a young chef in a mid-sized city get to open a great restaurant?
The answer is obvious: he has to find a hotel or condo partner. That’s how Anthony Goncalves came to have his own 210-seat restaurant, 42 in White Plains, N.Y., by the age of 37. Goncalves, who was short on experience and long on talent and hustle, bypassed the usual path of unpaid potato peeler rising up through the ranks. He didn’t even go to cooking school. Today, his 27,000 square-foot restaurant sits atop the tallest building between Boston and New York, and its six dining rooms serve his sui generis brand of cookery (think clams and house-made chorizo in vino verde sauce with spiced caviar) to an enamored clientele of local grandees. The fact that the chef has perfected the “bad boy” look doesn’t hurt. The ladies are smitten with his wavy black hair and the flirtatious twinkle in his eye, and the men see him as a guy’s guy, a local product who shares their worldview and would never intimidate them with prissy haute cuisine.