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Caterersearch.com 100: Marlon Abela

01 July 2010
Caterersearch.com 100: Marlon Abela

Overall ranking: 47

Restaurateur ranking: 15

Marlon Abela - Snapshot

Marlon Abela is the chairman and chief executive of http://www.marcrestaurants.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation(Marc). He has set himself the bold goal of creating a chain of Michelin-starred restaurants and less formal eateries in Europe and the USA. Marc's London portfolio encompasses private members' club Morton's, the Greenhouse in Mayfair and Umu in Berkeley Square. US sites are Morello Bistro in Connecticut (formerly Gaia), two A Voce restaurants in New York and Bistro du Midi in Boston.

Marlon Abela - Career guide

Marlon Abela was born in 1975 to Lebanese contract catering giant Albert Abela. He was involved at an early age with his father's global food service company Albert Abela Corporation (AAC), which employed more than 30,000 people in 40 countries and achieved sales of $1.2b (£800m) in 2000. AAC also owned top-rated hotels in locations such as Monaco, London and Nice.

Abela became executive vice-president of AAC in his early twenties, until 2002 when, following his father's death, the empire was split between him, his brother and his uncle. He set up Marc in 2001.

Abela's first London buy was Morton's private members' club, which he snapped up in 2001 and reopened in April 2004 after an extensive refurbishment. He bought the Greenhouse in Mayfair in 2003 just six days after head chef Paul Merrett - who has since left - heard he had won a Michelin star. Abela reopened it after a smaller revamp.

Umu, which is claimed to be the only restaurant in London to offer authentic Kyoto cuisine, opened in September 2004 and won a Michelin star within just four months.

Abela launched into the USA in April 2004, opening French-influenced restaurant Gaia in Greenwich, Connecticut, with Bjorn van der Horst in the kitchen.

In December 2008 Abela closed Gaia and reopened it as Morello Bistro, while 2010 saw Marc joining forces with US restaurateur Kenneth Himmel to launch Bistro du Midi in Boston, Massachusetts. The next Marc venture is due to open in September 2010. It will be a more informal ProvenÁ§al bistro with 80 or 90 seats in Knightsbridge, London.

Marlon Abela - What we think

Abela's master plan is to open 30 restaurants in London and the USA, and he has both the experience and the funds to achieve this. He was raised around some of the best five-star hotels and restaurants in the world, and the break-up of AAC and the sale of its Wood Company and Sogeres to Compass gave him the financial freedom to pursue the highest levels of style and standards.

Abela spent two years assembling a top-notch team prepared to open several restaurants at a time. The line-up has included Christian Palikuca, former head of operations for Daniel Boulud's flagship New York restaurant, as US operations director; leading Paris pÁ¢tissier Philippe Conticini as a consultant; and top chefs such as Antonin Bonnet (Morton's and the Greenhouse), Bjorn van der Horst (the Greenhouse, later moving to Gordon Ramsay's La Noisette and then his own restaurant, the Eastside Inn), Ichiro Kuboto (Umu) and Andrew Carmellini (A Voce).

Abela has adopted a three-pronged approach. At the top level, he plans to open at least five Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants in London, Paris and New York. Average spend will exceed £80 per head. His blueprint also encompasses a line of casual fine-dining restaurants with an average spend of £60-£90 per head.

While Marc restaurants have, on the whole, been critically acclaimed, Abela has not always got as much credit in industry circles as he may have liked, with sneers that Marc has been built up with the advantage of inherited wealth.

But Abela - who is worth an estimated £390m - insists this does not bother him. Speaking to the Times in 2008, he said: "I think we have proven ourselves. Everyone has to prove themselves in this world, irrespective of their background. The point is that we've done it in London in a very high-end segment of the market."

Marlon Abela - Further information

A Voce, New York, USA >>

Marlon Abela: Feeding an appetite for the finest dining >>

Michelin-starred Greenhouse restaurant to close for refurbishment >>

Marc Restaurants >>

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

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