Mega-restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow presides over more than two dozen restaurants like China Grill. He's also the guy who sparred with Rocco DiSpirito on TV and lashed out at Frank Bruni via a full-page ad in the Times.
Chodorow earned a law degree from Penn before making his first fortune in real estate in the 1970s, developing shopping centers in the Philadelphia area. Chodorow soon turned his attention to the restaurant industry, opening his first eatery, China Grill, in the CBS building in 1987. Except for an ill-fated detour a year later that landed him in prison, Chodorow has since made a mint with his ever-expanding mini-chain of China Grills and a series of other restaurants across the country. Chodorow's restaurants are always big box affairs, located in vast, modernist spaces, many of which have been designed by either Jeffrey Beers or Philippe Starck. His holding company, China Grill Management, is equally vast: but over the past few years, Chodorow's empire has receeded a bit, with several of his ventures failing to get off the ground.
Chodorow has been major figure on the dining scene for years, but he became a quasi-villainous pop culture figure in 2003 when he backed Rocco DiSpirito's restaurant, Rocco's, which served as the basis of the NBC reality show The Restaurant. Chodorow and DiSpirito's relationship disintegrated as the show progressed and both the show and the restaurant were axed a few months later. Theatrics like this are nothing new in the land of Chodorow: Over the years he's borne many a grudge, a number of which have resulted in lawsuits. He famously sued Rocco over the demise of their restaurant. (Rocco countersued.) Yet most notoriously, after Times dining critic Frank Bruni spanked Kobe Club with a zero-star review in early 2007, Chodorow struck back by taking out a blistering full-page ad in the Times in which he called Bruni unfit to be the Gray Lady's restaurant reviewer, demanded an apology for the "unjust" denigration, and accused Bruni and the critical establishment at large of harboring a prejudice against him. [Image via Getty]