One of the world's best restaurants might not reopen after lockdown
Eleven Madison Park in NYC might not come back after the pandemic
In 2017, Eleven Madison Park was named the number one restaurant in the world. It's no surprise then, that the luxurious 80-seat dining room was in full swing before the pandemic.
In an interview with Bloomberg, chef-owner Daniel Humm said, “At EMP, we’re in a bubble sometimes, but we were literally full, up until the end. Then we got word we had to shut down.”
Now, as the world begins to piece things back together and thoughts turn to the future, the owners have said it is highly likely that this iconic restaurant won't open its doors to the public again.
Daniel Humm said, “There is definitely a question mark over Eleven Madison Park—if it will reopen.
“It will take millions of dollars to reopen. You have to bring back staff. I work with fancy equipment in a big space. I want to continue to cook with the most beautiful and precious ingredients in a creative way, but at the same time, it needs to make sense.”
When the lockdown began, Humm had to let his staff go. Unfortunately, Bloomberg reports that about 30% of them were in the US on visas: “They all had to go home without anything. It pretty much broke my heart.”
Many restaurants have worked around the lockdown by offering delivery services, but this didn't feel right. Mr Humm said, “We were thinking, should we do some sort of to-go box? But it was so intense in New York, it didn’t feel to me that the world needed Eleven Madison Park food in fancy boxes. I knew it wouldn’t make so much money. Anyway, I didn’t want people to be exposed; delivery isn’t what we do.”
Instead, he focused his attention on a charitable pursuit instead. With hunger an escalating issue around the city, he decided to invest his time into Rethink Food. Rethink Food is a non-profit that uses leftover restaurant and corporate kitchen food to provide meals for people in need, and Humm was a board member before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Thanks to his board member status, he had the kitchen, supplier contacts, and the ability to raise money. “I went to American Express and said, ‘I need $250,000 in two days to get this started.’ And they came through.” In early April, Humm transformed EMP into a commissary kitchen and began producing almost 3,000 meals a day to feed hungry people around the city. He calls it “the biggest lightbulb moment.”
This work has sparked a change that will, if EMP manages to reopen, cause a long-term positive impact. If the restaurant were to manage to reopen, Humm says he would use it to feed the hungry and homeless in addition to the typical wealthy clientele.
“The infrastructure to end hunger needs to come out of the restaurants. Any way that EMP reopens—and it’s like a blank canvas right now, we would need to redefine what luxury means—it will also be an opportunity to continue to feed people who don’t have anything. I don’t need to only feed the 1% anymore.”
Reopening after lockdown is going to be an immense challenge for any restaurant, and Humm makes no mistake that things are going to be different. For one thing, "restaurants are going to need to charge more money. It will be slow, and there won’t be jobs for everybody. But I am hopeful we will come back.”