New York's loss is Melbourne's gain as Victor Churchill plans expansion

It was supposed to be the crowning jewel in celebrity butcher Anthony Puharich’s retail empire — a luxury meat emporium the likes of which New York had never seen before.

But a year after the death of Puharich’s friend, high-profile chef Anthony Bourdain, who was helping the butcher launch the New York location, Puharich has quietly shelved plans to take on the Big Apple.

“Sadly, we’re not going to pursue it any more.,” he tells Local East. “It doesn’t feel right without him being there. There have been so many ups and downs with it, and I feel like someone is telling me that it’s not meant to be.”

Puharich had harboured ambitions to open his high-end meat store in New York after his Woollahra outlet attracted the attention of Bourdain. Opened in 2009, the gilt-edged outlet on one of Sydney’s most salubrious streets has long been a drawcard for celebrities and food identities, and became a magnet for the chef and author, who planned to incorporate it into his high-profile New York food hall concept.

But the food hall, called Pier 57 and slated to inhabit one of New York’s abandoned piers in the Meat Packing district, was plagued by troubles. Eventually Bourdain abandoned plans to open on the location, which has since become the New York home of tech giant Google.

Although Puharich continued to support the project and was talking as late as earlier this year about his plans to continue with a New York enterprise, Bourdain’s suicide last year effectively sealed the project’s fate.

“(Anthony) loved what we did and he said that New York deserved a store like Victor Churchill,” Puharich says. “He was a very proud New Yorker and he was the one that planted the seed in my head that we could take this Australian butcher shop and put it in the biggest global city in the world.”

But without his friend the project has become too hard, Puharich says.

A year after the chef’s death, Puharich remains saddened and perplexed by the death.

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“The day he died, I had been calling him because he had written the forward to my book.,” he says. “We had missed each other on the phone a few times. When the police found him, they saw all these phone calls from me and they called me. They said, ‘Did you notice anything different about him?’ But I can tell you honestly that no, I didn’t. He was exactly the same as always.”

For Puharich, who is this month celebrates Victor Churchill’s 10th birthday, the end of the New York dream is not the end of the story. He has shifted his plans to expand the brand to Melbourne.

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“Melbourne makes sense to me,” Puharich says. “New York was an amazing opportunity, if it had happened, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead we’re going to be opening in Melbourne in the next 18 months. We’re currently looking for sites. Our wholesale business is down there and we see our future in retail in Melbourne.”

So New York’s loss will be Melbourne’s gain.

Read more about Victor Churchill’s 10 years in the making here.