Robert De Niro's Connection To Nobu

Nobu's co-founder and master sushi chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa faced significant challenges before finding success. But after several of his initiatives, including restaurants in Peru and Alaska, failed (per Inc.) and he found himself thousands of dollars in debt, Matsuhisa accepted an invitation to work at a small sushi bar in California. It was at this restaurant that Matsuhisa perfected his Peruvian-influenced Japanese cuisine, and in 1987, a friend helped him open an establishment of his own. 

Matsuhisa, the restaurant, was located in Beverly Hills and attracted celebrities like Al Pacino, Snoop Dogg and Danny DeVito (via Seeing Stars). But when Robert De Niro dined there, Matsuhisa's future was destined to be changed. "I get involved in projects that I really believe in and feel will work," De Niro told Bay Street Bull. But when De Niro approached Matsuhisa to consider opening a restaurant in New York, the chef refused. 

Matsuhisa was nervous about partnerships and new endeavors, as recorded by CNBC, at least at that time.

Robert De Niro was patient with the talented chef

In an excerpt from his autobiography, Matsuhisa recalls the moment he turned down De Niro's offer, writing, "I listened to his ideas and then, in broken English, tried to explain that I couldn't start another restaurant now because the one in Los Angeles was not quite on its feet. Matsuhisa's popularity was growing, and I could feel the potential for our clientele to keep expanding. But I knew that my staff didn't have enough training yet. Although De Niro's proposal was very attractive, I felt that I should build a solid foundation for Matsuhisa first" (per Eater). 

But De Niro was patient and when the two finally opened New York City's Nobu in 1994, the restaurant was more than well received. Now, with restaurants in multiple continents and a hotel line, the Nobu Hospitality group shows no signs of slowing down (via Pen). "It's not really business, but more like a friendship, a partnership, and understanding each other's philosophy," Matsuhisa told Channel News Asia. A successful partnership, indeed.