Those who come to the Hamptons as a break from the scorching city heat of Manhattan will be pleasantly surprised with the addition of a new restaurant awaiting them. Kozu, a Japanese Fusion restaurant recently opened by restaurateur and 75 Main owner Zach Erdem, is sure to stun with its unique blend of fresh fish, sushi and Peruvian influences. This scene will invite daytrippers and locals alike to delight in the natural beauty of the Hamptons with a vast outside patio for al fresco dining and linen-covered day beds; the place, featuring famed DJs from around the world in its private lounge area, is more like a Hamptons dream than restaurant.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Zach Erdem about this beautiful new venue, as well as his other operations scattered across the Hamptons. Erdem’s life is busy to say the least, in sharp contrast to the lax Hamptons lifestyle of his customers, but Erdem wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves the bustle and the chance to meet all of the interesting people who find themselves wandering through his restaurants and nightclubs in this affluent seaside community. Erdem describes his busy summer life and why Kozu will be an interesting addition to an already interesting and beautiful place.
What’s your background; where are you from?
I’m originally from Turkey, but it was always a dream to come here. JFK was my first stop in the states. I never meant to stay in Manhattan, but I remained there for a couple of years trying to find my way around and get a job; eventually I was led to the current opportunity at 75 Main in Southampton.
Tell me a little bit about the customer in the Hamptons. What’s this customer looking for and how is he/she different?
The Hamptons customer isn’t looking to see the same thing; people come to the Hamptons for many reasons, the beautiful houses, the water, the great food and the show. We highlight the beauty of the Hamptons at our restaurant.
How do you turn tables in an environment like this, especially in the summer? Do you have to price your food accordingly to compensate for slow table turnover?
We don’t change or raise prices for the regular clip of customers; we’re not going to raise our prices in the summer and lower them in the winter, especially when we want our restaurant to cater to the locals and the nearby city people. These are our regular customers. They come back for me and for my food.
Your restaurant caters to a specific domain in the Hamptons, but how is this place diverse culinary-wise or in other regards? What other projects are you working on here?
Our place has a lot to offer, but so do the Hamptons in general. I have a lot of other projects in the works; I have a great place for breakfast, a nine-room boutique hotel, a dinner place, a two-lounge restaurant at a nightclub. I have a full package at the Hamptons, catering to many different tastes.
What’s the menu and operation at 75 Main?
Our menu is more Italian-American in style, and it’s often seven days of breakfast, lunch and brunch. On Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, 75 Main is open 24 hours. That’s because people get out of the club I own at 5:00 a.m. and come over to this place to eat; no one else is up. It’s an interesting crowd. I’ve seen so many people come through my nightclub, and at this point, everyone knows that 75 Main is serving food at these hours and people can come and get coffee, breakfast or anything they want.
What about sourcing food? Do you try to use local vendors?
Of course. In this town, the food is great. The chefs are talented. I have three chefs back in the main kitchen and one main chef. I’ve been able to track down great fish from Japan and bring the best crowds to this great sushi.
What’s your approach to equipment and supplies?
Bar Boy has always been our go-to. They are out here so they understand what the local restaurateur needs and that it’s a very short season and you can’t make a mistake. We’ve had scenarios where all of our glasses had broken, Bar Boy simply drove them over to us within minutes to keep us operating.
So how long have you been in the Hamptons?
Since 2002; I’ve also spent time in Vegas, and I don’t know where I’d like to go next; I have a nice penthouse in mind, but I’m leaving such a beautiful setting where I work. When I rented here, I also jumped on the plane to go get some sun in Miami, where I have a house.
Any unexpected roadblocks this season?
Every year is up and down. The restaurant is designed to help people cool off, but we only had two warm days in June. The weather can really impact the success of these restaurants. Usually, we open all the doors and windows overlooking the streets, but we had to close all the doors and put the heat on in June. We weren’t happy about that.
What’s the biggest difference between the nightclub business and the restaurant business?
The biggest difference is that you don’t need to deal with the kitchen. In a restaurant, there will always be someone set out to destroy your day and start complaining about the specific food, and you won’t find someone like that in a nightclub. In both businesses, marketing is so important; it’s difficult to attract people to the scene, and a lot of work goes into branding and advertising. In this regard, these businesses are probably one of the most difficult businesses in the world.
Why bother, then? Why be in the restaurant business at all?
I love meeting people at restaurants; it’s worth it for the people you meet and everyone you come to know. I’m at my restaurants every day. You’ll see me here or at 75 Main every night. In regards to the future, my eyes are always open and I’m always interested in expanding to other places.
To learn more about Kozu from Zach Erdem, visit their Facebook page.