Jeffrey Chodorow Begins Investing in the Little Guy

Just a mom-and-pop operation…Photo: Getty Images

News that Borough Food and Drink was being taken over by Zak Pelaccio had some Chodorow watchers scratching their heads. How could China Grill Management be involved in a restaurant and not control it? General Chod tells us that, far from being a departure from his operating system, CGM’s boutique operation is just his latest innovation. “There’s 20th Century Fox for big projects, and then also Fox Searchlight Pictures. That’s what this would be like,” he says, crediting Pelaccio with the analogy. (How long did he mull that one?)

For Chodorow’s partners, it’s a way to get the gravy without the grief. “I really like doing these projects with some of these up-and-coming chefs,” Chodorow tells us, “but my organization can sort of swallow them up. Typically, my company wouldn’t do an 80- or 90-seat restaurant. But I love a Fatty Crab, say. So if I think a chef is talented and intelligent and has some administrative ability, I’ll let them do the restaurant the way they want.” Borough Food and Drink and the Upper West Side Fatty Crab are the first to get their lead from Chodorow, but he says two other chefs, yet unnamed, are likely to join the ranks soon. They’ll have CGM purchasing power, a CGM financial cushion, and access to all the CGM resources, but won’t have to take direction from CGM. It’s all great, that is, unless the business goes south. “Ultimately I still am the principal owner of the business,” Chodorow says. “I’m not going to let somebody lose tremendous sums of money.” But if the chef can keep it working, Chodorow is likely to be happy. “Four Fatty Crabs could make as much as China Grill.”

Related: Zak Pelaccio Taking Over Borough Food and Drink From Jeffrey Chodorow