Rising restaurateur Zach Erdem has gained considerable attention within the hospitality industry after transforming Hamptons summer dining staple 75 Main into a year-round hotspot under his stewardship. The dynamic 32-year-old reinvented his Southampton eatery, combining the classic style of the Hamptons with the enticing elements of New York City nightlife. The restaurant and lounge has become a favorite among locals, visitors and celebrities alike, attracting Hollywood A-Listers and politicians including Sarah Jessica Parker, LA Reid, Kelly Ripa, Stanley Tucci, Sofia Vergara, Howard Stern, Pierce Brosnan, Barbara Walters, Jodie Foster, Alex Rodriquez and Vice President Joe Biden.
Erdem’s esteemed reputation in the restaurant industry was not established overnight. After immigrating to the United States from Turkey in 2002, Erdem struggled to make a living and was planning to move back home after just six months. With only sixty dollars in his pocket—which was loaned to him by a friend—Erdem took a quick trip to the Hamptons two days before his scheduled flight back to Turkey. After arriving in Southampton, Erdem stopped for lunch at the first restaurant he saw—75 Main.
How did you get into the culinary industry?
I can remember as a child watching my mother cook in the kitchen. I always admired the way she prepared the food for my entire family like it was art. My fascination for food continued on with me during my travels to the United States. Once I arrived in a state I didn't know anything about, the only thing I found familiar was the food. I found comfort in the culinary industry and that is where I began my journey, at 75 Main.
Tell us about 75 Main. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the restaurant?
My love for 75 Main started years ago. Not many people know this but it was my very first meal in the Hamptons. The restaurant itself is home to me, the people, the food, the atmosphere, I want to share this feeling with all my customers. I want everyone who comes to Southampton to know they have a home here at 75 Main. Let us be your kitchen, we want to take care of you.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to 75 Main's success?
I am a huge believer in teamwork. My staff has come back year after year to come work at 75 Main because they know our values never change. We want everyone that comes in to leave feeling special, and that's my goal.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Fresh produce has become a huge demand. Everyone who comes in is asking about the ingredients in their food. Luckily the Hamptons has the most amazing local farms, Chef Mark and I consistently visit these farms to see what the best ingredients are to incorporate in our dishes.
Always smile, trust yourself and never give up.
Your greatest success as Proprietor of 75 Main? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
I consider becoming one of the premiere dining and entertainment establishments in the Hamptons as one of the greatest successes. My most difficult moment comes every time I face a difficult/unhappy customer. You want people to enjoy their experience and I do the best I can to make sure the overall experience at 75 main is a good one, but I’ve learned you can’t satisfy everyone; so in the end I just make sure I’m a good host.
Your advice to an aspiring restaurateur?
Work hard and respect people and it will work out.
Describe the ideal experience at 75 Main.
I want people to feel at home and enjoy great food in a fun atmosphere.
How important are architecture/design to the success of 75 Main?
Architecture/design is very important; dining is an all senses experience. A drab appearance can detract from even the best meal.
Most popular dishes/drinks and your favorites?
The most popular dishes are the grilled Spanish octopus and shrimp saganaki and mojitos. My personal favorite dishes are the pasta, skirt steak and salmon.
How do you motivate your employees?
Happy employees are essential, especially in an industry like hospitality, which has a very high turnover rate. I do this by creating and maintaining a family environment; we celebrate birthdays and have meals together. I also always do what’s needed to lend a hand. I have bartended; served meals and even cleaned bathrooms since I’ve been owner.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Macchiato and spring water and salmon
What literature is on your bed stand?
“Taking over” by Mitchell Kaneff
Role model - business and personal?
My business role model is Donald Trump and my personal role model Michael Bloomberg
Learning all I can about business so that I can expand and grow into other fields.
Favorite travel destination?
What's next for 75 Main?
New locations in other cities, I would love to do something in South Florida and New York City.