When I reached Michael Seltzer by phone last week to ask him how he managed to revive the landmark steakhouse Le Biftheque, which opens for business again next week, he invited me to come visit the original Cote de Liesse location to see how the project is proceeding. With his wife/slick business partner Linda and long time general manager Gilbert Laurin by his side, he escorted me throughout the large property to illustrate the total makeover taking shape. An army of workers were in every corner.
|Gilbert Laurin, head chef Tony Masella, Michael Seltzer and chefs Richard Taitt and Robert Headley|
Seltzer laughed when I told him how last August I was the first journalist to report that Le Biftheque was coming back. “Yes I know,” Seltzer acknowledged. “I read that copy of The Suburban the day I was doing the final signing to take the restaurant back.”
Thirty-one years ago Seltzer introduced Le Biftheque to Montrealers. A series of franchises soon sprung up elsewhere in Quebec and Ontario. In 2005 he sold the flagship restaurant on Cote de Liesse and rights to all of the franchises, accepting an offer he just could not refuse. The two subsequent owners both filed for bankruptcy. Seltzer was unsuccessful in buying it back the first time, but last summer he sealed the deal. Now residing primarily in South Florida, where he operates another steakhouse called Gameroff’s, he’s pouring a significant amount of dollars into the building. Besides a completely revamped and more elegant interior, there will new sushi bar right off the lobby, a roast beef cart and special fruits and vegetable items, to go along with popular staples like the rib steaks, fresh rolls, croutons, and of course the famous butcher shop.
The cows outside are being painted and half of the former staff are already back on board. Laurin was lured out of retirement. With word of mouth spreading, Christmas party bookings are already filling up. “People will be pleasantly surprised,” Seltzer said. “I did not want this restaurant to look like all the others. I wanted it to look higher end. It is chic and very clean.”
Le Biftheque was always one of my favorite restaurants.I mourned its passing and cannot wait to be back at one of their tables.
Here is my video interview with Seltzer.