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Marlon Abela

12 May 2005

Overall ranking: 90

Restaurateurs rating: 30

Snapshot

Marlon Abela is the chairman and chief executive of 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, along with a fine-dining patisserie chain (to be called Patisserie Coco).

Career guide

Abela was born in 1975 to Lebanese contract catering giant Albert Abela. He was involved at an early age with his father's global foodservice company Albert Abela Corporation (AAC) which employed more than 30,000 people in 40 countries and achieved sales of $1.2b in 2000.

AAC's Wood Company and Sogeres food service business operated in the business, education, healthcare and airline sectors. AAC also owned top-rated hotels in locations such as Monaco, London and Nice.

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

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

He has spent two years assembling a top-notch team prepared to open several restaurants at a time. The line-up includes Christian Palikuca (former head of operations for Daniel Boulud's flagship New York restaurant) as Gaia's operations director, leading Paris pÁ¢tissier Philippe Conticini as a consultant, and top chefs Antonin Bonnet (at Morton's), Bjorn van de Horst (the Greenhouse) and Ichiro Kuboto (Umu).

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 over the next five years, followed by 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.

The third concept, Gaia, is a sophisticated but informal chain of suburban restaurants across the US serving regional meals with an average spend of £20-£25. The first Gaia, in Connecticut, made Esquire Magazine's list of the 21 Best New Restaurants in 2004.

Abela's first London buy was the 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 and reopened it in April after a smaller revamp.

Umu, which claims 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.

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