Originally published in Nov 2010
Aside from being a major player in Chicago’s food biz and club biz, R.J. Melman is also someone I’m proud to call “friend”.
AOL’s CitysBest.com profiled him- and he was kind enough to mention me.
Nov 23rd 2010 1:27PM / by Jessica Radloff
Mention the name Melman to anyone in Chicago, and they’ll immediately associate it with excellent food, a restaurant empire and impeccable service. Following in his dad Rich’s footsteps, R.J. Melman is carving out a name for himself under the Lettuce Entertain You umbrella. HUB 51 has been bringing in Chicago’s elite (and hottest 20- and 30-somethings) for almost three years now, and Paris Club debuts in early 2011. Needless to say, R.J. and his brother (and business partner), Jerrod, have their hands full. But just like Dad, R.J. has become a culinary force that Chicago is proud to claim. City’s Bestsat down with Melman to discover the secret to his success and how he likes to spend that rare day off.
Let’s play which came first: R.J. Melman or R.J. Grunts?
R.J. Grunts opened in 1971. I was born quite a bit after that, so I’m named after the restaurant.
What is the most important lesson your dad taught you about the restaurant business?
Never rest on your laurels. Always be improving the place, and reaching for excellence.
Did you always want to go into the restaurant business?
I probably wanted to go into the restaurant business since I left high school. If you asked me before that, I would have maybe thought about a career in law or politics. However, working on campaigns made me not want to pursue that. Once high school ended, I worked just about every job imaginable in the restaurant business, and have loved it ever since.
Your first venture with the LEYE empire (HUB 51) has been an enormous success. Your second operation, Paris Club is set to open in January. What is your goal for Paris Club?
Our goal is to reintroduce French food to a new generation of diner. I think Paris Club will be a fun, upbeat take on French food that is affordable with a lot of great items to share.
Other than your own restaurants, which places do you most admire and enjoy dining at in Chicago?
I love Perennial in Lincoln Park quite a bit. Ryan Poli is a great Chef. I’ve also always had nice meals at Avec.
Thanks R.J.- next drink is on me!