Photo Credit: Donnelly
Zach Erdem doubts he’ll get any sleep this summer—on weekends anyway. Erdem, who turned 75 Main into one of the Hamptons’ most in-demand restaurants, attracting everyone from Leo DiCaprio and the Kardashians to Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, is expanding his reach big time this summer with a new hotel, a second restaurant and two nightspots—all in Southampton.
Erdem, who came to this country in 2002 from his native Turkey (with a stop along the way for a degree at the prestigious London Business School), says he’s excited about the multiple launches, even though they’ll keep him running around the clock. At least everything is close to his home and primary business at 75 Main in Southampton. Erdem’s new 5-star Hotel ZE and restaurant Kozu Hamptons, located in the building that housed Nello Summertimes (where Erdem got his start in the U.S. restaurant business) is just a two-minute walk away. Kozu will introduce Japanese-Peruvian cuisine to the East End and serve up sushi staples as well. His high-end nightspot Summer House is conveniently at the back of the hotel, while the other club AM Southampton takes over the former 1 OAK space at 125 Tuckahoe Lane.
Here’s how Erdem plans his 24-Hour Day:
7 A.M.: I wake up, work out in my apartment, which is right above 75 Main. A lot of the staff lives above the restaurant, too. That’s why we can go from 7 a.m. to 4 a.m.—everyone is right here. Because of that, we were one of the few places open on the East End during Hurricane Sandy. After working out, I go for a jog on the beach and try to run a couple of miles.
9 A.M.: First I’ll head to the bank, then check in at 75 Main. I look at the reservations book, see who is coming and focus on the numbers. We have 210 seats, and on a summer weekend we can have 1,300 or 1,400 guests. Some restaurants out here don’t do that in a month. On our slowest days, it will be 500. I’ll also look to see if there are VIPs, but they will often text me directly to say they’re coming. Since they often want a table in the back, I make sure they’ll get it and not have to wait. Working at Nello’s gave me the background to deal with celebrities, and when I came to 75 Main, they followed me here. Since I have all the new places this summer, I will also be checking in at Hotel ZE, Kozu, Summer House and AM Southampton.
10 A.M.: I have breakfast — usually an egg-white omelet with spinach and tomato, and then I‘ll meet with the manager; the chef, Mark Militello; and the staff. Whenever I can, I go with Mark to local markets like the Milk Pail, Hayground Market, Fairview Farm and other places located between Southampton and Bridgehampton. They’re five to 10 minutes away, but in summer the trip can take much longer because of all the traffic. I like being involved with the food. When I was young, I was always in my mother’s kitchen peeling tomatoes, onions and potatoes.
11 A.M.: I check on the food-delivery orders. I make sure to place my large orders well before the summer season starts. One year, trucks delivering liquor broke down close to the Fourth of July weekend. It was crazy and upsetting, and I made sure something like this would never happen again. I now have everything 30 to 45 days before I need it. When the season starts, all the liquor and wine lists are in place.
12 P.M. – 3 P.M.: Lunch service begins. People always ask me why I have been successful with 75 Main since there were so many different owners prior to my taking it over in 2010. My answer is always the same. If you watch me when I’m here, you won’t think I’m the owner. I don’t sit in a corner and order the staff around. I do what needs to be done, whether that’s greeting and seating customers, carrying plates or clearing tables. The key thing if you’re an owner is to be in your restaurant and working for your customer. Other restaurants have come into this market, restaurants with big names, and when the owners weren’t involved, they didn’t last more than a season or two. You have to be on top of things and cater to your local customer. And it’s paid off. Each year my numbers have increased. The Hamptons have become more of a year-round community, so we see good numbers in winter, too. In January, we doubled our business.
3:30 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.: For a quick bite I’ll have our watermelon salad for lunch or maybe the salmon entrée before the dinner service starts. If I didn’t get to it in the morning, I’ll look in at one of our new spots, like Hotel ZE, which opened on Memorial Day. Costas Kondylis [the prolific architect who specializes in high-end residential and hotel properties] did the design. It will have five suites and four standard rooms. Kozu, the restaurant in the hotel, will offer a combination of Japanese and Peruvian cooking.
7:30 P.M. – 11:30 P.M.: I’m at the restaurants, greeting customers. The room at 75 Main gets packed quickly. Some of our guests, like Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill, might come for both lunch and dinner. We love him. Nancy Pelosi stops by when she’s in the Hamptons, too. At night, it’s rare not to see someone well known. Everyone is happy, they’re at a great location, all the windows are wide open, there are tables on the patio. People walking by want to come in and check it out. Our regulars are here three to four nights a week, which is why we don’t touch so many items on the menu because we know these customers want them. As for our most popular dishes—I’d say they’re the skirt steak, the salmon, the halibut; the branzino is excellent. Whatever Mark cooks is great.
11:30 P.M. – 4 A.M.: 75 Main is open late seven days a week, so I’m used to the routine. But this year I have the two new clubs. Each evening I’ll go to Summer House between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m., when it’s likely to be most crowded. Here, there’ll be bottle service. We’ll be tight on the door. After 2 a.m., I’ll head to AM Southampton and stay until closing. On Friday night, we’ll have hip-hop; on Saturdays, the big DJ names from around the world; Sundays will be lower-key with more of a local crowd.
4 A.M. – 7 A.M.: I will help close down the restaurants and clubs, and that can take up to two hours. When I just had 75 Main, it was tough to get enough sleep during the season. And this summer, I’ll have to do a lot more. I don’t get to the beach much either. I bought a house in Miami so I can relax a little bit once the season is over. But no matter how long the hours, I can’t complain. I love it. This is my life. When I came to this country, all I had was a pair of blue jeans and two T-shirts. I didn’t know any English, had no money and no friends. It was a dream to come here. I made everything I have in this country, and when I die I will leave it all here.