By MOLLY CLARK
Jeffrey Chodorow was born in the Bronx but moved to Miami Beach with his mom and siblings after his father died. Chodorow was exposed to restaurant culture early, as his mother would take him on dates when she couldn’t afford a babysitter, and his first restaurant, China Grill, was inspired by his childhood.
In 1987, Chodorow was in a meeting at a restaurant called Chinois in Santa Monica, California, where he initially planned to buy an NFL team but opted out. Instead, he went back to New York and successfully opened China Grill, which raked in $7 million in its first year.
Chodorow is known to fire back at critics. In February of 2007, The New York Times critic Frank Bruni gave Kobe Club zero stars and wrote, “The food was disappointing.” Chodorow fired back by taking out a full-page ad across from the food section stating that the food critics weren't qualified.
Chodorow funded Pure Food and Wine, a vegan eatery founded by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. When the couple split up, Chodorow not only sold the restaurant to Melngailis, but he also filed a lawsuit against Kenney for poaching staff from Pure Food and Wine for his new eatery.
In the early 2000s, Chodorow funded Rocco’s on 22nd, a Manhattan restaurant owned by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito featured in the reality TV show “The Restaurant.” It did not end well for the partners, as they clashed to control the eatery, leading both to file lawsuits against each other.
Sarma Melngailis isn’t the only cast member of “Bad Vegan” who has done jail time, as Chodorow has done four months in jail for “two counts of obstructing justice.” Chodorow was legally prohibited from involving convicted felon Scot Spencer in his company, Braniff Airlines, so when he did involve him, the airline went bankrupt, and Chodorow had to both do jail time and pay back the investors.
After graduating from The Wharton School, Chodorow’s son, Zachary, followed in his footsteps and established a hotdog business in the Hamptons in 2008. Zachary has been a director for his father's restaurant empire, China Grill Management, since 2008 and is also the co-founder of RedFarm.