Pierre Cardin, master merchant of everything from couture to carpets, has added haute cuisine to the realm of his endorsements. This week Cardin took over controlling interest in Maxim's, once considered to be the world's ritziest restaurant.

Negotiations between the fashion mogul and Louis Vaudable, whose family has owned the restaurant for 50 years, were concluded late Monday night. A spokeswoman for the restaurant would not reveal the price and exact share of Cardin's interest in the restarurant, though she did say it was probably not more than 51 or 52 percent.

Cardin, who for four years has merchandised the accoutrements of the restaurant -- including ashtrays, plates, spices, flowers and clothers under the Maxim label -- says he bought the restaurant "for my pleasure. For me the money is not my life. I have enough money to do everything. I want to respect the tradition, to keep up the things that everyone dreams of," Cardin said yesterday.

"Many people work at cheap things but one does not dream of cheap things. I want to keep the beautiful things that people dream of. If you don't have dreams in your life it is unnecessary to live."

Cardin, who calls Maxim's "not a restaurant but a dream of the past 100 years," plans to spruce up the place may considered tarnished in recent years by overly high prices, food lacking in inventiveness and a chichi clientele replaced by expense-account clients for the $60 lunches and more expensive dinners.

Right off, Cardin plans to change the least desirable room in the four-story restaurant to the "chambre d'amour" and move in antiques and paintings, "more true things," as he described them.

Then, on to bigger things. Cardin plans an internationally produced movie called "La Dame de Chez Maxim," which he describes as a century of the grand life in Paris. Then he hopes to open a Maxim's restaurant in Los Angeles and New York -- he has already scouted locations -- and eventually plans to build Maxim's hotels all over the world. Perhaps even in Peking, he says, where he shortly will open two shops to accommodate the wide range of merchandise he manufactures there.

Meanwhile, back at 3 rue Royale, Cardin is very limited in just where he can place his signature. "This place is historic and classic. That makes it illegal to make any real changes," he says.

As for the traditional white-glove formal dress of the staff, will he change that to designs from his recent collection? "Mon dieu, non," responds Cardin. "Do you think I am stupid?"