100: Claudio Pulze

01 July 2010 100: Claudio Pulze

Overall ranking: 63

Restaurateur ranking: 20

Claudio Pulze - Snapshot

Claudio Pulze is the founder of" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Cuisine Collection, the group of London restaurants that includes Osteria dell'Angolo in Westminster and Via Condotti in Mayfair. His former company, A-Z Restaurants, launched some of the most successful restaurants seen in London in recent years, including the two-Michelin-starred Aubergine and Michelin-starred Zafferano and L'Oranger.

Claudio Pulze - Career guide

Pulze opened his first restaurant, Montpeliano, in 1975 before launching the Pasta Bar chain in 1983, which he sold in 1986 to Robert Earl of Planet Hollywood.

In September 1993 he launched A-Z Restaurants in partnership with Franco Zanellato and ex-stockbroker Giuliano Lotto. The next three years saw three highly successful launches: Aubergine, Zafferano and L'Oranger, which won four Michelin stars between them.

By the time Pulze resigned in April 1998, following a power struggle with Lotto, the group comprised two Memories of China restaurants, Spighetta and two Spigas.

In 1998 Pulze launched a new group called Cuisine Collection, picking up both the Vineet Bhatia-headed Zaika, which in 2001 became the first Indian restaurant to win a Michelin star, and the Italian Al Duca, which holds a Michelin Bib Gourmand.

In the same year Claudio launched Vinum Restaurants with restaurateur Trevor Gulliver to open the 150-seat Cantina Vinopolis brasserie in the Vinopolis City of Wine in London's Southwark. The following year, the pair added the Wine Wharf wine bar to the complex and, in 2006, opened the Brew Wharf restaurant and microbrewery near by. The modern-Italian Latium restaurant followed in 2003 in partnership with young chef Maurizio Morelli.

Pulze joined forces with Michael Caine again in 2004 to open Deya, a less formal and more modern Zaika, while Fiore gave celebrated Italian chef Umberto Vezzoli his first English restaurant.

Pulze also found time in 2004 to try to save A-Z Restaurants from an administration offer that had attracted 29 bids by the first of two deadlines. He teamed up with Simon Binder of Café Med, then Marlon Abela of MARC, but was outbid by his former A-Z partner Zanellato. At the 11th hour he teamed up with Zanellato again to buy the company for £7m. In his absence, A-Z had grown to 11 restaurants but had shed Rosmarino, Timo, one of the Spigas, and La Spighetta.

Pulze's last stint at A-Z was to prove relatively short-lived. In October 2007 the group was rebranded as the London Fine Dining Group after private investor and group chairman John de Stefano had acquired the remainder of the company's shares in February, bringing the group under his sole ownership.

Left to concentrate on Cuisine Collection, Pulze oversaw a spate of openings in 2008: Italian restaurant Osteria dell'Angolo in Westminster, Brasserie St Jacques in Mayfair and the Beehive in Marylebone - his first pub. However, he was forced to sell Brasserie St Jacques in September 2009, citing the effects of the recession.

Claudio Pulze - What we think

When Claudio Pulze opened the Beehive in Marylebone in 2008 it was a landmark moment in more than one way for the veteran restaurateur. Not only was it his first pub, but the launch also marked Pulze's 50th opening - a reminder, if one was needed, of just how prolific he has been.

It's not just numbers, though; Pulze is without question one of London's most influential restaurateurs. The restaurants he has launched in the capital since 1975 have showcased the talents of some of today's most celebrated chefs - Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton, Giorgio Locatelli, Stephen Terry and Vineet Bhatia to name just a few.

The sheer number of openings inevitably means that not every restaurant has been a success - including, most recently, Brasserie St Jacques - but Pulze has hit the mark more often than not, particularly in the A-Z days.

The first A-Z restaurant, Aubergine, won two Michelin stars under chef-patron Ramsay. The next two openings, Zafferano in 1994 and L'Oranger in 1996, also won Michelin stars under their respective chef-patrons, Locatelli and Wareing.

The secret of a good restaurant, according to Pulze, is not only good food, good service and good value for money, but "the conviviality of a buzzing, well-run room". It is a philosophy that has stood him in good stead for 35 years and looks set to keep him at the centre of London's restaurant industry for some time yet.

Claudio Pulze - Further information

Claudio Pulze sells Brasserie Saint Jacques >>

Claudio Pulze to open new Italian restaurant >>

A-Z becomes London Fine Dining Group >>

Read more about the 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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