Veteran restaurateur Laurence Isaacson dies aged 75
Laurence Isaacson, veteran restaurateur and chairman and co-owner of L'Escargot, died this morning following a short illness, the Soho restaurant has confirmed.
In a tweet paying tribute to the 75-year-old it described the restaurateur as "a larger than life character" who "will be missed by us all".
Isaacson and business partner Brian Clivaz had acquired the restaurant from Marco Pierre White's White Star Line in 2014. He had earlier co-founded Chez Gérard, as well as private members' club Home House among many other ventures.
Clivaz told The Caterer: "I worked with him for 30 years so it's very upsetting. He'll be remembered for the many things he did. He was a great marketeer. One of the first people to really use direct marketing. He used to send out thousands of newsletters on a regular basis. His magazine Sante was incredibly widely read.
"You'd be amazed at the amount he did. We started Home House together and worked at Chutney Mary and Chez Gérard.
"He famously flew in a private jet with Coco Chanel and couldn't resist inviting her to the restaurant. He was one of those people that was an incredibly positive force. He really lived life to the full."
Originally from Liverpool, Isaacson at various points found himself studying alongside George Harrison and Paul McCartney before a move to the London School of Economics saw him placed in the same class as Mick Jagger.
It was not music however that ignited Isaacson's passion, but restaurants. After a few years working in advertising, in 1983 he opened Le Café Des Amis Du Vin in Covent Garden with Neville Abraham, the pair went on to found the Groupe Chez Gerard, which eventually grew to a collection of 28 restaurants.
In 1998 the Isaacson and Abraham were awarded the Group Restaurateur of The Year Catey.
In its heyday, Chez Gérard was, according to Isaacson, at the forefront of offering dinner and theatre packages and it was through this that he ended up on the board of the Ambassador Theatre Group. He was also a council member of RADA, a board member of the Royal Shakespeare Company America, chairman of the World Cancer Research Fund and an ambassador for Kidney Research UK.
He was also one of the founding partners of Home House private members' club in Marylebone and co-owner of Scott's restaurant in Mayfair.
After a few years living in the USA, where he swore he wouldn't open another restaurant (but ended up doing so), he returned to the UK, where Clivaz persuaded him to become the chairman of L'Escargot.
He was awarded a CBE for services to the restaurant industry and tourism.
Isaacson will be remembered in a private funeral, with a theatrical memorial planned for Spring 2019.