It goes without saying that Zach Erdem is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Hamptons. He runs two of the hottest restaurants and most exclusive clubs on the South Fork, 75 Main, AM Southampton, Kozu, and Kozu Lounge (formerly Summer House), not to mention European-style boutique Hotel Ze. What you may not know, is that he’s built every bit of this hospitality empire himself. And there’s more to come.
Zach came to the US from Turkey in 2002, seeking new opportunities. He started as a bartender at the first restaurant he went to in the Hamptons, 75 Main. He continued working and traveling all over the states until returning to buy 75 Main in 2010. 75 Main has been a Southampton institution for more than 70 years. Known for its award winning brunch, Zach has made it into a year-round dining destination. And after dinner, 75 Main transforms into an exclusive lounge, packed with a who’s who of the Hamptons. They’re open 24 hours on the weekends.
Talking to Zach yesterday, I got a few little known facts from him. He goes to farmstands every morning himself, thursday through sunday, and develops the daily specials based on what he finds. He likes Hank’s in the Hamptons, but really loves taking a drive to the North Fork for the best selection. He has one farm he goes to for their chicken and eggs, one for tomatoes and one for the melons in the watermelon salad at 75 Main. His picks are displayed on the bar, and you can actually choose your own produce for your meal. Heirloom tomato and mozzarella anyone?
Last summer, Erdem expanded his reach, taking over the Nello Summertime space and opening the wildly popular Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant Kozu. He tells me they’re sold out every weekend, but if you’re a regular to his restaurants, you will find your way in. If you can’t get in on Saturday, definitely try it during the week. The décor is incredibly chic, featuring art by Sports Illustrated photographer Raphael Mazzucco. The sushi is amazing, and the lobster is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Erdem has homes in Miami and NYC, but calls Southampton his home base. He travels as much as he can in the ‘off season’ as it were. He loves Miami to unwind, New York is more for meetings. He starts in December, looking for staff for the following summer. He also loves Mykonos and St. Tropez, telling me he likes to be in the hot spots, and says he plans to expand internationally in the next year.
If I see you having lunch in my restaurants, you will always get in my clubs. (You can skip the line!)
Erdem clearly loves his job, and has the stamina for it. He splits his time between 75 Main and Kozu, often running back and forth every half hour, greeting regulars and first-timers alike. He says he’s grateful for his customers, and thinks of them as family. “I know without them, I wouldn’t have my business.” But lucky for us, he does!
75 Main, 75 Main St, Southampton; Kozu, 136 Main St, Southampton.
Twitter and Instagram: @zacherdem; @75Mainofficial