These are tough times to be a celebrity chef. Last year, a star-studded group of L.A. chefs (including Nancy Silverton, Joaquim Splichal, Mary Sue Milliken, and Susan Feniger) came very close to winning a spot at L.A. International Airport.
But, as we detailed in last week's cover story, "Mr. Juice: How Lobbyist John Ek Gets His Way At City Hall," the chefs were thwarted by bare-knuckle City Hall lobbying on behalf of the incumbent contractor, HMS Host. The chefs' winning bid was thrown out and LAX restarted the bid process, which gave Host a chance to hang on to its lucrative airport business.
"We're a little shocked," said Pat Murray, executive vice president of SSP America, which teamed with the chefs to bid for the LAX contract. "We're completely mind-boggled at how this could be the result of two years of work."
The contract includes restaurants at Terminals 4, 5, 7 and 8. Altogether, it was worth $60 million in revenues per year for 10 years -- or $600 million. So it was worth fighting for.