ST. PETERSBURG — Food enthusiasts may have reason to salivate over the revamping of BayWalk.
A gourmet market, an Asian fusion restaurant and a high-end steak house all with ties to celebrity chefs are in the works for the downtown retail center.
Marketing materials designed to lure retailers to the project list Zakarian's Steak House and Morimoto as tenants. They are owned by two different celebrity chefs featured on the Food Network who have restaurants in places such as New York, Mumbai and Hawaii.
"I would say it's pretty certain they are going to be there," said Faith Hope Consolo, the New York-based retail consultant recently contracted by BayWalk owner Bill Edwards to help fill the center.
Her online brochure for the shopping plaza refers to it as "The Shops at St. Petersburg."
"We haven't officially changed the name. That's just an interim reference," Consolo said. "We know it's not going to be BayWalk anymore. They didn't bring me down just to put a paint job over BayWalk."
Said Edwards: "I can't tell you that's the final name. We're going to do the unveiling of the name and logo on August 16 at City Hall in front of the City Council."
He wouldn't confirm that Zakarian's and Morimoto are going in the center but said they are possibilities. A spokesman for Geoffrey Zakarian said the famed chef is in talks with Edwards but nothing is confirmed yet.
Eataly, a vast food market with stores in Italy and New York, is another possible tenant, according to Consolo, whom the New York Times has called New York City's "highest-profile practitioner of the art of matching stores with storefronts."
"There's going to be a very important food market," she said. Joe Jimenez, managing director of the Edwards Group, is talking with Eataly as well as some other food markets, she added.
Eataly was founded in Turin, Italy and opened its first U.S. store and restaurant in New York in 2010. It overwhelmingly impressed even those most sophisticated of palates that are a cab ride away from almost any food in the world. Shoppers waited 30 minutes just to get in the door for weeks after Eataly debuted with its vast selection of seafood, meat, produce, wine, beer, bread, pasta, cheese, granola, chocolate, olive oil, vinegar, coffee and prepared foods. Oh, and there's a vegetable butcher, too.
Mario Batali, another popular Food Network chef, is a partner in Eataly.
Edwards, who has built his fortune in the mortgage business, bought long-struggling BayWalk in September for $5.2 million, $3 million less the asking price. He has projected it will be restocked with upscale restaurants, quality shops and national chains by September 2013.
In May he confirmed he was in talks with Asian wonder chef Masaharu Morimoto but said no contract was inked. The chef helped put New York's Nobu restaurant on the culinary map and has starred on "Japanese Iron Chef" and "Iron Chef America." He has his own Asian fusion restaurants in New York, Philadelphia, Hawaii, Boca Raton, Tokyo and Mumbai.
Zakarian, the man behind the planned Zakarian's Steak House, is the recent winner of The Food Network's "Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs" competition as well as a judge on the series Chopped.
He's been a praised chef at legendary New York restaurants Le Cirque and the 21 Club and co-founded the Blue Door restaurant at the Delano Hotel in South Beach. In the past two years he has opened the Lambs Club and the National in New York and Tudor House in Miami.
Can St. Petersburg be far behind?
Consolo, who was involved in retooling Times Square, is using these restaurants to market BayWalk to other retailers along with the city's cultural offerings and demographics.
"You go to these other little sleepy towns and there's nothing. In St. Petersburg you've got the museums, you've got the orchestra, the Holocaust Museum. I was very impressed with the Vinoy … the sports culture," she said. "It's not only a picturesque place. That's not enough when it rains or it's too hot."
Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8785.