This is a tale about one of those rare individuals in life that gets to make a living while working in and around his passion.
Queens, New York native Richard Frazer was your average student at what was then Stuyvesant High School, on Manhattan’s 14th Street. He later attended New York University undergrad as a philosophy major, ultimately narrowing his choices upon graduation to either starving philosopher or law student. In the end, he chose to stay in NYC and attend NYU School of Law.
As a young attorney, Frazer was interested in corporate law, starting out at a relatively big law firm, where he focused on securities and mergers and acquisitions work. He eventually decamped to a smaller firm, where he continued to practice general corporate law.
Then, in 1999, Frazer was lured to one of New York’s most prestigious and well known midsize law firms: Pryor Cashman, which today employs more than 170 lawyers. After moving from Park Avenue to its current location, “you can literally touch the New Year’s Eve ball from the firm’s window in Times Square,” Frazer said. Over the years, the firm has grown, adding an office in Los Angeles, and has been ranked the #1 midsize law firm in New York City.
But most importantly, the move to Pryor Cashman led the way for the affable barrister to merge two of his passions. Richard Frazer is a self-proclaimed “foodie” and member of the James Beard Foundation (just one look at his Twitter page, @guttergourmet, reveals his unbridled love of diverse cuisines). “I’ve always loved food and, at Pryor Cashman, I have been able to build a practice representing both leaders and innovators of the
Despite having a demanding “day job” as an attorney, Frazer never abandoned his interest in food. About ten years ago, he began chronicling his thoughts on both new restaurants and old favorites, writing for digital publications including Always Hungry, The Daily Meal and, even earlier, the popular food chat board Chowhound. For Frazer, writing about food has been a way to learn about history, religion and culture, which continue to drive his passion as a restaurant lawyer.
Not long after joining Pryor Cashman, Frazer’s law partners came to regard him not only as a go-to for restaurant recommendations and industry news (he has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the comings and goings of the city’s top chefs, from pizzaiolos to omakase sushi masters), but also as the de facto expert on the legal issues impacting restaurant businesses, eventually naming him co-head of the firm’s Restaurant, Food + Beverage Group, which Frazer created.
“By combining my passion for food with the work I was doing for some of the most iconic chefs and restauranteurs in the industry, I was really able to grow this specialized practice within the firm,” Frazer said. “I enjoy nothing more than just listening to my chef clients and restaurant owners talk about their businesses.”
With the green light from his partners, Frazer initially hoped to be able to devote 10 percent of his time to representing restaurant, food and beverage companies. Within two years, this percentage grew to 50 percent and, presently, accounts for over 99
percent of his work.
Over the years, Richard Frazer has counseled more than 100 food businesses, including mom and pop operations that have grown into some of the most respected companies in the industry, such as Major Food Group and its’ founders Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick and Rich Torrisi, and the young entrepreneurs behind New York’s celebrated Los Tacos No. 1, and Los Mariscos, among others.
His clients appreciate his “soup to nuts” legal representation, which reflects his holistic understanding of the business issues restaurant owners, investors, manufacturers and distributors face (and enables them to save time and money by having a single firm handle all their legal work). His practice has grown to include advising on business formation, startup expansion, financing, licensing, leasing, operational issues, franchising and even brand optimization.
“Many restaurants do not realize that they need more than just a real estate and liquor lawyer. From health and safety issues to ADA compliance, discrimination claims, minimum wage, tipping and overtime employment matters, the food business has become a minefield of regulatory hurdles,” he explained.
Challenges aside, Richard Frazer says his greatest satisfaction comes from his clients’ success. When Noda, a recently-opened omakase sushi restaurant, received a Michelin star, Frazer called to congratulate his clients there, who told him, to his amazement, that the star belonged as much to him, their lawyer, as to them.