To New York City foodies, Chris Cannon is fairly well known. He was the man behind many widely popular and critically acclaimed restaurants in the early 2000s, but he abruptly closed them at the end of the decade.
He moved out of the city but didn't venture too far -- just about 25 miles west of the Hudson to Morristown, New Jersey. Now, he's back with a four-in-one concept restaurant so grand, it's being compared to Great Gatsby's manor, reports "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Vinita Nair.
"Fifteen thousand square feet - there are four separate dining spaces, all doing slightly different things," Cannon said.
Every room in Cannon's latest restaurant is curated like a modern museum.
If you're eating in the formal dining room, the art compliments the view.
If you're drinking in one of the two bars, the art is the view.
"We bought all these antique phones on the wall. I bought three-quarters of the restaurant on eBay," Cannon said. "I thought I bought so much stuff, but when I started putting stuff up, I was like, 'Oh my God, I have to buy like another 40 percent more because it's so big, the place."
The place, now known as Jockey Hollow, was built for famed AT&T President Theodore Vail in 1916. It served as Morristown City Hall for decades, but when Cannon saw it for the first time, it was unoccupied.
"Well, I'm a restaurateur, so you see spaces and you immediately-- you know start extrapolating what you're going to do with it," Cannon said.
Cannon said his drive to create unique dining spaces started as a child.
"I was a little strange," he said, laughing. "We had a friend of the family, a Greek man who owned one of the best seafood restaurants in Manhattan, and we used to go there two times a year, and I just fell in love with the whole environment -- the shtick, the waiters, everything. I was blown away by it."
So he started cooking and studying business. By the time he was 49, he had five popular restaurants in Manhattan, including the two-Michelin-starred Marea, specializing in seafood.
But Cannon's business partner wanted more, and they had a very public split in 2010.
"They didn't basically want to work with me anymore because they wanted to open up a whole bunch of businesses... For themselves, yeah pretty much," Cannon said. "It is crushing. It was difficult."
But this also marked a turning point.
"There was some thought, and then I thought like you know the business is not what drove me to this point that I was very upset about things. It was these two people that kind of threw me out, and I was like I'm not going to let somebody you know destroy my love of something," Cannon said. "I spent a summer, the end of a spring and a summer, up in the mountains, riding a bike."
Three months later, he jumped back into the business.
For the food -- which changes seasonally -- Cannon looked to one of his former chefs, Kevin Sipple.
Nair sampled the kale and riccota casoncelli and the oysters -- which are sourced locally by a farm that Cannon helped revive in New Jersey.
As if the upper floors weren't enough, Cannon also has a rathskeller in the basement, modeled after a classic beer hall.
"I joke around that my wife wouldn't let me have a man cave so I built one," Cannon said.
The lifelong New Yorker is the first to admit he never thought he'd end up in New Jersey and misses the "energy" and his friends, but he said he's "done that."
Now, he never wants to leave.
"The thing that compelled me and really drove me with this place was, in a time when restaurants were becoming more standardized and uniformed and pasteurized, everyone wants to create a concept that they can make 30 of them," Cannon said. "This could never be replicated. You know, to me, the goal here is to create a restaurant that is here 25 years from now. I have the opportunity to do that -- that's what interests me."