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Fear not, De Niro is not leaving the movie industry any time soon. Despite starring in over a hundred films and being the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Productions, he also has interest in numerous restaurants and hotels. He’s actually been in the hospitality industry for over 25 years, and now, with partners chef Nobu Matsuhisa and movie producer Meir Teper, he’s realising an ambitious plan of launching 20 new hotels in 20 locations by 2020.
Nobu Hospitality currently has operations spanning five continents, thriving in the world’s capitals as the ultimate destination lifestyle experience. The first Nobu Hotel opened in 2013 as a hotel within Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, London and Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay opened in 2017 and Nobu Hotel Marbella opened in 2018.
How did you discover Chef Nobu?
Around 30 years ago, the Director Roland Joffe took me to Nobu’s restaurant in LA, Matsuhisa. Even though we have plenty of good Japanese restaurants in New York, I hadn’t come across anything as special as Nobu, so I would pop in every time I was in town. About a year after my first visit I suggested to Nobu that we open a restaurant together in New York – he refused.
What was so special about Nobu?
When I ate at Matsuhisa it was like something else. What I didn’t know at the time is that there is a lot of Peruvian influence in his cooking. That’s the Nobu style, this unique Japanese-Peruvian mix.
How did you convince Nobu to say yes?
I understood why he refused. The LA restaurant had only been operating for two years and he was overwhelmed with how busy it was. How did I convince him? Well, I pretty much insisted that he at least visited me in New York. I knew once I got him there he would see my vision. He spent a few days with me; I brought him into my home, introduced him to my family, my friends, my business partners. It took four long years and another visit until eventually he agreed – he says it was my enthusiasm that convinced him!
What was the next step?
I was already in a partnership with the film producer Meir Teper in Tribeca Grill. When I was trying to get people to invest in Nobu, he was one of the few people who said he would put the money in and actually did it.
And then you decided to launch Nobu Hospitality?
I don’t think any of us knew it would get this big. We were constantly being approached by hoteliers and we thought, hold on, let’s just get in the game ourselves. Nobu restaurants were asked to be in a lot of places – hotels, shopping centres, you name it. We realised that we had have something people wanted to elevate their brand and decided to capitalise on it ourselves.
Why was your debut hotel in Las Vegas, a market that’s notoriously difficult to break into?
Meir got us into Vegas. He knew the people at Caesars Palace and we thought it was a good fit so we went ahead. It’s very different from your typical Vegas hotel, with a focus on food and design, as well as more personalised service and an overall feeling of tranquility.
And now you have broken into the European market too.
Yes, London was the obvious choice for our first hotel in Europe so we opened in Shoreditch, which is reminiscent of New York’s Meatpacking District. We found an excellent partner in Daniel Shamoon (founder of MC Hotels) and decided to open a Nobu next to his Marbella Hotel, Puente Romano. We also launched Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay last year with owners Ian and Richard Livingstone, Daniel Shamoon and Jennica Arazi.
Our vision is to open 20 hotels in 20 destinations by 2020. We’re expanding into Barcelona, Riyadh, Los Cabos, Chicago, Toronto, São Paulo, Atlanta and Tel Aviv. The plan is to be done by the time Trump is out, and then we can relax and have a great party.
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