It’s safe to say no one in the world is sitting down to a three-plus hour, eight-course dinner costing hundreds of dollars at any of the top fine destinations around the globe.
The pandemic’s stronghold has all but made it impossible for luxury restaurants to keep doing what they were doing prior to the shutdown.
On Wednesday night, however, one of the world’s best restaurants, which (temporarily) closed its doors when New York City pressed pause, did a 180.
Three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, known for providing diners with a luxurious, unparalleled dining experience, among the most memorable in the world, is reincarnating itself.
Starting Thursday, it will use its resources to become a food commissary to support New York City’s first responders and others in need.
On Wednesday night, in an Instagram posted on his personal page, Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Make it Nice hospitality group, announced plans to turn the lights back on and help NYC weather a storm he thinks is just beginning.
“Starting today, we have turned Eleven Madison Park into a commissary kitchen with the goal of producing thousands of meals per day for those who are working in the front lines and those who are deeply effected by the current crisis,” Humm wrote on his Instagram featuring a dark, empty kitchen.
The pandemic sweeping the world has been an especially dark time for high-end restaurants, many of which quickly pivoted to take out and delivery — alcoholic beverages to-go included — keeping a bare-bones staff and trying to stay afloat.
Not all Michelin-starred restaurants attempted the shift. And, indeed, a restaurant such as Eleven Madison Park, where the price of dinner includes otherworldly hospitality and just the right amount of guest coddling, might have struggled to make a smooth transition to takeout.
The economic consequences that posh restaurants have to contend with because of their standstill status are dire, says Hillary Dixler Canavan, the restaurant editor for the global food site Eater.
“The high-end restaurants that are closed are bleeding cash right now,” she says. “In the US, they haven’t gotten economic relief from the government yet, and while some may get cash reprieve by pivoting to a takeout model, broadly speaking, to-go food at upscale restaurants isn’t profitable unless you do high volumes. These places weren’t designed for pick-up and delivery.”
As some mid-range restaurants struggle to serve customers during this uncertain period and as more upscale dining destinations opting for an all-out closure, dates of reopening TBD, Eleven Madison Park’s shift is noteworthy.
To bring the commissary kitchen to fruition, the restaurant has partnered with Rethink Food NYC, a non-profit that upcycles excess food to distribute meals to underserved communities in NYC. American Express is also a partner.
At this time, NYC’s underserved communities includes the men and women on the front lines of the pandemic and individuals who’d typically rely on food banks, many of which have closed due to health concerns around Covid-19. Many doctors and nurses and other hospital staff are staying in Manhattan hotels, many of which have also transitioned from one day accommodating tourists to the next providing a safe, clean space for first responders.
Eleven Madison Park is making approximately 2,000 meals a day, which Rethink is picking up and delivering to both hospitals and New Yorkers in need,” Rethink executive director of strategic initiatives Meg Savage tells CNN.
As soup kitchens around the city are closing, Savage says Rethink is scaling operations in response so they can serve more food to more people who need it.
Dishes coming out of Eleven Madison Park, with Chef Humm on the line include chicken rice with roasted cauliflower, braised veal cheek with couscous and roasted carrots, and pasta with romesco sauce, served with house focaccia.
The public response to the news, according to Humm’s Instagram, has been overwhelming.
Less than 24 hours after making the announcement, Humm’s post had received over 21,000 likes and over 1,000 supportive, praising comments.
Shivani Vora contributed to this story.