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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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