Tristan Simon blew into Dallas in late 1995 armed with honors degrees in English and economics from Duke University, a forceful determination to succeed, and a persuasive sales vocabulary. Within a year, Simon corralled Steve Hartnett and Gene Street, two of the area’s most influential and wealthy restaurateurs, and the trio developed Cool River Cafe in Las Colinas. Simon spearheaded the project, then the most expensive restaurant and bar ever opened in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. CoolRiver grossed more than $10 million in its first year. Simon was 24.
His “allergy to authority” led to a confrontation with Hartnett. In September 1998, eight months after the opening of Cool River, the partners paid Simon something south of $1 million, and he left.
Simon eventually formed Consilient Restaurants. Buoyed with high-profile investors, Consilient Restaurants revitalized Henderson Avenue with the openings of Cuba Libre, Sense, Candleroom, The Porch, Hibiscus, Victor Tangos, and the original Fireside Pies. All of the well-designed spaces offered customers choices and favorable price points that encouraged frequent dining and drinking.
In the fast-paced world of the restaurant business, however, that seems like ancient history. After chef Nick Badovinus left Consilient in early 2008 to start his own successful restaurants, people began wondering if Simon was still a business wizard or a stingy CEO with a massive ego who disappoints his investors. Empires don’t last forever.
But Simon has, once again, fallen up instead of down. Now named Consilient Hospitality, his revamped company has only one partner: multifaceted “invisible billionaire” Tim Headington. More here.