Staff slam vegan transition of Eleven Madison Park and reveal that only skeleton staff remain
Current and former employees of troubled restaurant Eleven Madison Park (EMP) rejected their ex-boss’s decision to go all vegan 80 weeks ago, claiming the eatery now runs on a skeleton where chefs are more concerned with looks. then with fresh ingredients.
Under the condition of anonymity, seven current and former employees of the three-star Michelin restaurant have disclosed Business Insider the establishment was plagued with understaffing and chaos after chef Daniel Humm, 46, made everything vegan during its reopening last year.
After the surprise move, workers said there was a mass exodus as new hires quickly burned out, while Humm reportedly reveled in his status as a celebrity chef dating actress Demi Moore.
“Suddenly there were sous chefs walking out of the restaurant,” a line chef who retired in 2021 told Insider. “There were cooks walking out of the restaurant.”
“It was just, to put it very simply, as**t show.”
Daniel Humm, 46, (pictured) the chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park has lost staff after his restaurant’s sudden switch to a vegan menu last year
Current and former employees told Business Insider they suffered from long work days, low wages and unreasonable requests from their bosses
They also claimed that Humm was more committed to his celebrity chef status than to the restaurant. Hum (left) is pictured with girlfriend-actress Demi Moore in Paris last week
Eleven Madison Park’s $335 11-course meal
tea with lemon verbena
salad with strawberry and shiso
yellow tomato dosa
in variation with rice
with peas and baby lettuce
with melon and smoked daikon
with lemongrass and marinated tofu
with horseradish and herbs
with tomato and coriander
sides: summer beans with green onion, corn with juniper berries
marinated with thyme
Chandler Yerves, an EMP employee who did speak officially, told Insider that after he was hired as a junior prep chef in May 2021, a sous chef instructed him to buy 5-inch red peppers and that they are just the way they are. restaurant portrays in their menu.
Yerves said his bosses didn’t care where he got them from, only that they looked like the photos of the restaurant, with the young chef traveling to four different Whole Foods to find the right peppers.
He claimed that half of the peppers he bought went straight to the trash, with what another former employee described as EMP’s “farm to waste” pipeline.
Not only was the food waste demoralizing, but Yerves said he became exhausted when he was only paid $15 hours while spending 20 hours a day, six days a week at the restaurant, which charges $335 for its vegan tasting menu. .
“It was definitely a huge drain on my mental health,” Yerves, who retired in November 2021, told Insider. “It was definitely the most selfish restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life.”
Six former employees added that they too dumped the restaurant due to low pay, long hours and lack of support.
A representative of the restaurant said in a statement that the Humm was proud of his work and would not change his plans for Large.
“When Daniel Eleven reopened Madison Park after the pandemic, he told the New York Times that ‘we couldn’t do what we were doing before,'” the representative wrote. “Neither the restaurant nor its plan to pull out of these necessary changes because of some largely anonymous and downright erroneous critiques from former employees, competitors and other agenda-driven sources.”
Despite Humm’s vow of being deeply committed to the restaurant, five former employees told Insider that the chef rarely visited the kitchen unless it was to take VIP guests on tours of EMP.
Yerves said there was one such case last year when actor Woody Harrelson stopped by the restaurant and claimed that Humm was dancing around the kitchen and lighting a joint, which disgusted some employees.
“He acted like an idiot,” a former front-of-house employee told Insider. “We felt like Chef had lost touch with everything.”
Humm had announced his plans to reopen as a vegan establishment last year, a message that surprised customers and employees alike.
Humm said he was committed to the change in his restaurants and said his daughters gifted him a hoodie that read ‘Too Big To Fail’ despite his troubles
Normally supported with reservations that are difficult to get to, the restaurant now has open tables every night after reopening with its all vegan menu
One of the biggest annoyances for the workers was Humm’s alleged refusal to raise their wages from the city’s $15 minimum, a blow to their wallets only exacerbated by EMP’s ban on tips.
A former employee told Insider they had to decline a generous $1,000 tip from Chipotle founder Steve Ells, who they said felt “offended” by the rejection.
A current employee said many of those who quit EMP went to rival Danny Meyer’s restaurant, The Modern, where “they made more money” after Meyer’s ended its no-tips policy.
The low pay, coupled with the long hours at EMP, where it’s not uncommon to work an 80-hour week, had even caused some to cut it off during their shifts, an employee told Insider.
“Everyone was depressed,” said the former kitchen worker. “Everyone said, ‘This place isn’t okay.’
Arielle Smith, a maître d’ of the relaunch until last February, told Insider that while she was grateful for her job at Large, her brief stay saw the culture and experience at the three-star Michelin restaurant plummet.
“This is the new EMP, and everyone is new, and nobody really knows how to do this at the level that they’ve done it,” she said.
Cucumber with melon and smoked daikon – one of 11 dishes on the tasting menu. Two chefs work full time all day to prepare the ingredients for this dish
Eggplant with tomato and coriander, which Wells said had a ‘lumpy heaviness’
Angelina Jolie was among those who attended the reopening night in June
Humm’s restaurant ran into trouble last October after its vegan menu received a scathing review in the New York Times, dismissing the fact that those who booked a private dining room at the back of the restaurant could still order meat.
New York Times critic Pete Wells had little time for a dish of dried beets served in a clay pot that is broken open at the table, saying it “tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint.”
The vegetables, Wells said, were doing “things no root vegetable should,” and he accused Humm of manipulating the ingredients far beyond what was necessary.
Wells described a tomato dish as a “pumped up, distorted taste, like tomatoes through a wah-wah pedal,” a device used by musicians to distort the sound of an electric guitar.
Eleven Madison Park won its first Michelin star in 2010. The following year, it joined the elite group of three-star restaurants — an accolade it retained until the final ranking, in May 2021.
Eleven Madison Park wasn’t reopened post-COVID in time for the latest rankings, meaning food watchers will have to wait until May 2022 to see if it can hold onto its three coveted stars with a plant-based menu.
There are only 134 three-star restaurants in the world; France and Japan each have 29 and in the United States there are 14.
New York City currently has five – the same number as London.