I want to be him too

From finance to food, this guy is my role model.

Ahmass Fakahany, previously co-president of Merrill Lynch, has always been a foodie. He established a niche for himself by building a wine collection for the company.  The wines were mostly bought for himself, but it greatly reduced costs for Merrill whenever Mr. Fakahany brought wine to board dinners.

Unfortunately, his wine collection was sold off when Merrill Lynch got bought out by Bank of America because it was deemed “excessive.”


Even in the dining room, Mr. Fakahany was the go-to guy for food-related issues. People would ask him to help spice up a plain salad or entrée.

So how and why did Mr. Fakahany switch into the restaurant business?

When Stanley O’neal, the former CEO of Merrill resigned, Mr. Fakahany knew it was over. His resignation making his 21 years at the company officially went into effect as of February 1st, 2008.

Though he obviously received other offers, he decided to exit the banking business once and for all.

His first restaurant investment took place in 2006, when he rode in the same elevator with chef Michael White. They were already acquaintances, but Mr. White wanted to open a restaurant of his own, and mentioned to Mr. Fakahany during the elevator ride that he had found 10 to 15 supporters.

Mr. Fakahany offered to fully support him without any other partners.


Now, after a series of events, both men work together at Altamarea, one of the fastest growing restaurants in New York.

What’s most interesting to me is how Mr. Fakahany operates the business. Many of his implementations are akin to those of a businessman.

For instance, he offers deferred cash bonuses to some managers to instill loyalty and retain the good staff. Recently, he exchanged a $4,500 dinner bill by several British Airway executives for nine air tickets to give to his staff.

Mr. Fakahany also knows how to cut costs. He is involved in every process of the way, from hiring his former driver for transporting clients and ingredients to negotiating laundry rates based on his physical observations that the machines could be running faster.


One of my biggest dreams is also to be a restaurant financier, where I can have stakes in different restaurants that I like or deem potential.

But I know as well as the next businessman that running restaurants is not an easy feat. It requires a sharp mind, good sense of humor, and patience all at the same time.

A former trader and now co-owner of restaurants puts it best: “Running restaurants is harder than trading high-yield bonds.”


Angry Birds Deluxe

If the iPhone app Angry Birds, one of the most frequently downloaded games among millionaires, was catered toward the wealthy, what would it be like?

Chickens would ride in Gulfstreams, and bombs would be replaced with bags of cash—dropped on high-end retailers such as Bergdorf and Luis Vuitton.

Just how willing would Bergdorf be willing to have bags of cash dropped on them, do you think?


Eating Ox in Denmark

Be bold and daring. Or just opt for the best.

For the third consecutive year, Noma has been crowned first according to the annual San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurant awards.

The restaurant, located in Copenhagen, Denmark, is traditional and avant-garde at the same time.  It doesn’t rely on customary ingredients such as foie gras, truffles, and olives typically associated with internationally renowned, upscale restaurants, but instead seek to break through the clutter by utilizing edible materials from the Nordic region, notably Icelandic skyr curd, berries and water, and Greenland musk ox.


In fact, Noma is a combination of two Danish words: “nordisk” meaning Nordic and “mad” meaning food. Together, the first two letters of each word spell out “Noma.”

The restaurant prides itself on its unique courses that symbolize cultural heritage and health. It is involved in every step of the process from start to finish: cutting, smoking, drying, you name it. And in place of wine as a major component in creating sauces, Noma uses light alcohol like ales and fresh blends like fruit vinegars. The additional mixes of seasonal herbs and spices are not too dissimilar to dishes created in Asia’s high-end vegetarian restaurants.

Their 20-course menu comes at a price of 1500 DKK, or 265.95 USD (based on the most current exchange rate: USD/DKK = 0.1773).

Here’s a preview of some delicacies that are on the menu: celeriac and unripe sloe berry, limfjords oyster and air onion, and brown cheese.

(I specifically picked the ones I either haven’t heard of or can’t pronounce).


And the current head chef? Rene Redzepi.

It’s no easy feat, but he’s done it—starting his own restaurant in 2003 when he was only 25 years of age.

As of right now, the restaurant is so overbooked that the next available reservation is in August. Evidently the waiting list is in the hundreds. Considering its fame, the length of the waiting list shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise.

Honey, I Want A Platinum Ring

Typically when people see or hear of the word “platinum,” they associate it with a car part, the silver cap that is used for cavity fillings, or just a kind of metal.

Well, believe it or not, demand for platinum has been surging relative to gold. This may have something to do with the fact that gold became the most expensive metal used in jewelry last August. Still, analysts expect gold to continue rising over the next five to eight years, some even betting on its price to reach $5,000 an ounce.


Due to gold’s bull run, platinum as a result has shined through like a diamond in the rough. Just because it is not a gold color does not mean it fails in a comparison. As a whole, platinum use increased by 1.8% last year, 31% of which was due to jewelry. Jewelry ranks second for platinum demand by application (first is autocatalyst).

Even if the price of platinum rises in the short term, it will hardly beat off existing or potential investors alike, since many of its consumers are from emerging countries. In China, particularly, there have arisen many platinum jewelry buyers. In fact, demand from China rose 2% last year, simultaneously accounting for a whopping 68% of global platinum consumption. The precious metal is also gaining popularity in India, where younger women are opting for the white metal rather than traditional gold.


Something worth noting: On February 28, 2012, platinum closed at $1,718.50 versus gold at $1,784.23. The spread is not huge, but it’s still a different nonetheless. Moreover, platinum’s growth is more reasonably capped, in my opinion. Platinum was priced at $1,546 on the same day three years ago, whereas gold has just been going at it, peaking at $1,921.15 on September 6, 2011 on a straight 11-year run.

In addition, gold demand from jewelry makers decreased by 3% last year—not a good sign especially with the rapid increase of a new middle class possessing much disposable income to spend.

Another place you might be familiar with the metallic element is Tiffany & Co. Aside from traditional platinum wedding bands, more engagement rings today are fashioned out of a platinum band with a diamond setting. So look out for that tidbit next time you see or receive one!