Entrepreneur Extraordinaire Sam Nazarian

Text by Michelle Peerali & Natalie Shirinian

As writers and native Angelinos, we have tag-teamed on many projects, encountered an array of characters, relished our palates in fine dining, stayed at five-star hotels, and watched an alluring display of apparel showcased by prevalent designers during fashion week. However, our latest challenge was to get a hold of a man so high in demand that his presence was an enigma, to say the least. This man is none other than entrepreneur, Sam Nazarian, CEO and founder of SBE.

Nazarian’s entrepreneurial pursuits started young, at the age of 23, then dabbling in the business of telecommunications and now, eleven years later, with his diversified company, SBE which includes several restaurants, hotels, nightlife, and real-estate divisions, as well as Bolthouse Productions and Element Films. Sam has produced films such as 2005’s comedy, Waiting,  2005’s Down in the Valley and 2006’s Five Fingers, The Last Time, 2007’s Pride and Mr. Brooks and 2008’s College. He has also secured culinary partnerships with renowned chefs Katsuya Uechi, José Andrés and Michael Mina. The collaboration of Katsuya and Philippe Starck has produced one of the most sought-after restaurants in Los Angeles. Katsuya, which launched in Brentwood in 2006, was followed by Hollywood in October 2007, Glendale in May 2008, and now with plans for a downtown Los Angeles location to open in early 2009. Starck also extended his hand at designing XIV, in partnership with Chef Michael Mina, on the Sunset Strip, which opened in October 2008. Most recently, he opened The Bazaar by José Andrés which will be integrated into SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. We were fortunate enough to pin-down the mystery man. He was charming and witty even in busiest of days, especially when noting his new hotel, SLS at Beverly Hills, as “Not your father’s Four Seasons.”

Here is more of what he had to say:

What do you believe are characteristics of a successful nightclub/restaurant/hotel?
Definitely great customer service is what people love, if you make sure and fulfill people’s needs they are truly satisfied. We add a care and a personal touch to every guest and to every client. Also, we try to not make a venue plainly to be the place to see and be seen, and really make it about the quality. We take personal care into every detail so people remember and truly want to come back, which in turn makes that establishment a success.

What is the Sam Nazarian touch within each new establishment? What do you like to contribute to each new venture?
I’d say we have more of a SBE touch, because everyone works as a team here, I work with very talented people in which I have secured partnerships with, offering a European sensibility and design, so definitely I can’t take credit alone its truly a collaborative process that makes the success of SBE.

Due to the state of our economy, and with the opening of restaurant XIV and the SLS hotel in LA, do you expect a decent turnout for such lavish establishments?
SBE prides itself on quality and class and when people want to go out and dine, hopefully they’ll want to spend wisely and really enjoy their experience, which has been the case most recently.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy every aspect of it, especially building each new project from early stages of development to the final result, it’s such a pleasure when you work really hard and see something grow to be a success. It was exciting when things happen at the same time especially, with my experience recently with the SLS Hotel and XIV.

Are there any other cities besides Vegas and Los Angeles that you’d like to expand SBE’s mark on?
We are working on expanding the SBE mark to New York this upcoming year

SBE has a fantastical twist to most of what they design. How did that evolve the way it did?
Well I definitely have high regards and respect for Philippe Starck in whom I have a 15-year contract with to collaborate with on my endeavors. He has such a skill that comes out in beautiful and true form. I’m also looking forward to collaborating with art designers, photographers, and musicians for their creative eye.

You have developed so much so quickly, how does a man of your busy caliber have time to relax? What do you usually do to relax?
I have a house in Park City, Utah, where I like to go to ski, relax, and visit during the Sundance film festival. But it’s a rarity that I have down time.

Can you give us a sneak peek to any future endeavors for SBE?
Well we have a lot of great projects on the rise at the moment. Currently we have opened the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, and have attained the legendary Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas that is under re-development, that is scheduled to open in 2011, and we have the Ritz hotel in Miami that is scheduled to re-open in 2009 as well.