THREE SUPERMODELS TRY THEIR HANDS AT THE TRENDY FOOD BIZ

By A.J. Jacobs
Updated April 14, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT
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The rail-thin supermodel known as The Body insists she also has A Stomach. Just listen as Elle Macpherson ticks off the contents of her fridge: ”Yogurt, cheese, bacon, eggs, ham, bread, caviar, tomatoes, onions, peanue butter, Vegemite, jam, chutney, focaccia, wine, Coca-Cola, champagne, beer, Evian, Cap’n Crunch” (and she has that with whole milk, mind you). ”I love to eat,” she says. Thus, says Macpherson, it’s perfectly logical that she and fellow runway walkers Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer are partners in the Fashion Cafe, which was scheduled to open in New York City last week. The 280-seat eatery, brainchild of entrepreneur Tommaso Buti, is being touted as the beau monde’s equivalent of the Hard Rock Cafe-and the first link in a global chain of Fashion Cafes. What will be on the menu, wags have asked, the Little Mac and a Quarter-Ouncer? ”No, no,” sighs the Australian beauty, her 6-foot, 125-pound frame folded onto a brown leather couch in Buti’s Manhattan office. There most definitely is high-calorie fare, including burgers, quesadillas, and pork chops. Models can-and do-chow down, she says. ”When you’re six feet tall, you can afford to eat,” adds Buti, who’s married to this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit- issue cover girl, Daniela Pestova. The Fashion Cafe joins a smorgasbord of theme restaurants (see sidebar), from Planet Hollywood, which boasts such celebrity investors as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis, to Dive!, backed by Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. ”They’re one of the hottest-growing segments of the ’90s,” says Dennis Lombardi, an executive of Technomic Inc., a restaurant consulting firm. ”It’s not foolproof, but if (the Fashion Cafe) executes it well, it could be very successful.” Success for theme restaurants, says Lombardi, means earning more than $10 million a year, versus $3 million for regular eateries. Like other theme restaurants, the Fashion Cafe, estimated by one industry insider to have cost at least $3 million, is relying as much on providing a show as a meal. Located in tourist-heavy Rockefeller Center, home to the Today set, the restaurant ushers diners in through a huge camera lens. Inside, waiters shuttle your chicken wings down a catwalk. You’re surrounded by such memorabilia as Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier bustier and one of Liz Taylor’s wedding gowns. As befits a restaurant backed by models, you’re bathed in soft light. (”People will look better,” says lighting designer Ron Harwood. ”The broccoli will be greener.”) And you’re greeted by ”video mannequins”-life-size replicas of Naomi, Claudia, and Elle, equipped with a video projector in the chest that makes it appear they’re talking to you. If skeptics are right, the mannequins are about as close as Johann Q. Tourist will come to the real thing. ”(The supermodels) didn’t really open it, did they?” says clothing designer Nicole Miller. ”I thought it was just sort of a front to get attention.” Not true, says Macpherson. Buti is the major shareholder, but the model insists that she, Naomi, and Claudia are bona fide partners, even if she won’t talk numbers. ”We’re involved in everything that begins with M: the mood, the marketing, the merchandising, the memorabilia, the menu.” One thing’s for sure. The models are very involved in the media blitz. Before facing a reporter, Macpherson, wearing a leather Fashion Cafe jacket, huddles with her publicist about upcoming appearances on Fox and CNN. Mid- interview, the Sirens star seems to slip into Stepford mode. ”Blah, blah, blah. I’m so tired of talking about myself,” she laments out loud. Minutes later, The Body excuses herself for a photo shoot. She scours the preliminary Polaroids. ”I don’t like this one,” she declares, ripping it up. After the picture taking, a reporter catches her eye. Macpherson looks his way. ”Bye-bye. Your time is up.” So that’s what they mean by service with a smile.

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