Dish

Still Standing

He's also licensed his homemade products, such as mango ketchup, to Gold's Foods, which means much wider distribution. Now in addition to specialty stores, local supermarkets will soon be carrying Chef Allen's good stuff. He's working on a Website so people can order his products internationally. In addition he continues to host events such as Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation and appear in national magazines.

Yet even with such tweaking, fans in the restaurant business wonder how long Susser can hold out. Said one industry insider who didn't want to be named: “I will say that I love Chef Allen's. I respect the man and his previous work. And that means previous. What has happened there lately? I can't see anything but laxness. What, if anything, can you say that Chef Allen had a hand in to originate something that's close to being exciting?”

So while his restaurant, like it or not, has been an unquestionable success in the past, the old recipe may no longer work. Indeed Susser says he can't promise he'll stay in Aventura. “I've seen Loehmann's go from a good to weak project. The roadways around here are also not a happy place,” he scowls, referring to ongoing construction on Biscayne Boulevard. “People don't want to drive.” Then there are the chain restaurants, such as P.F. Chang's, Houston's, and Morton's of Chicago, lined up in a row on the approach to Chef Allen's and featuring a collective 2000 seats, he estimates. “The price point is very strong today,” Susser says, “but they're just seats, not direct competition.” Which isn't exactly the truth: As one frequent Miami diner points out: “Who the hell wants to go to Chef Allen's when you can grab a steak at Morton's?”

What Chef Allen will pledge is that he can't see himself leaving either the restaurant business or South Florida, where he's been since the Seventies. “I like the growth opportunities here and the mix of people.”

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