Current and former employees at struggling Eleven Madison Park (EMP) restaurant have slammed their ex-chef’s decision to go full vegan 80 weeks ago, claiming the restaurant now operates with a skeletal workforce where chefs are more concerned with looks than deal with fresh ingredients .
On condition of anonymity, seven current and former employees at the three-Michelin-star restaurant told Business Insider the restaurant has been plagued by staff shortages and chaos after chef Daniel Humm, 46, went vegan when it reopened last year would have.
After the surprise move, staff said there had been a mass exodus, while new employees quickly burned out, while Humm reportedly reveled in his status as a celebrity chef, who dated actress Demi Moore.
“All of a sudden, sous chefs came out of the restaurant,” a line chef who quit in 2021 told Insider. “There were chefs who left the restaurant.”
“It was just, to put it very simply, not to show.”
Daniel Humm, 46, (pictured), the chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park, has lost staff after staff after his restaurant’s sudden switch to a vegan menu last year
Current and former employees told Business Insider they suffered from long hours, low wages and unreasonable demands from their bosses
They also claimed Humm is more committed to his status as a celebrity chef than to being in the restaurant. Hum (left) is pictured with his girlfriend actress Demi Moore in Paris last week
The 11-course meal at Eleven Madison Park for $335
Tea with lemon verbena
Strawberry and shiso salad
yellow tomato dosa
in variation with rice
with peas and baby lettuce
with melon and smoked radish
with lemongrass and marinated tofu
with horseradish and herbs
with tomato and coriander
Sides: summer beans with spring onions, corn with juniper
marinated with thyme
Chandler Yerves, an EMP employee who has officially spoken, told Insider that after he was hired as a junior prep chef in May 2021, a sous chef instructed him to buy 5-inch peppers and that they are exactly as the restaurant portrays them in their menu.
Yerves said his chefs don’t care where he got them from, just that they look like the photos from the restaurant, in which the young chef travels to four different Whole Foods to find the right peppers.
He claimed that half of the peppers he bought went straight to the trash, in what another former employee called EMP’s “farm to trash” pipeline.
Not only was the food waste demoralizing, but Yerves said he was exhausted from paying just $15 an hour while dedicating 20 hours a day, six days a week, to the restaurant charging $335 for its vegan Tasting requires menu.
“It’s definitely been a huge toll on my mental health,” Yerves, who quit 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, left the restaurant because of low pay, long hours and a lack of support.
A representative for the restaurant said in a statement that Humm is proud of his work and will not change his plans for EMP.
“When Daniel Eleven reopened Madison Park after the pandemic, he told the New York Times that ‘we could not go back to what we were doing before,'” the rep wrote. “Neither the restaurant nor any plan to back down from these necessary changes due to some mostly anonymous and flatly false reviews from former employees, competitors and other day-to-day sources.”
Despite Humm’s vows to be very attached to the restaurant, five former employees told Insider that the chef rarely visits the kitchen, except to take VIP guests on tours of EMP.
Yerves said one such instance arose last year when actor Woody Harrelson stopped by the restaurant and claimed Humm had been dancing around the kitchen and lighting a joint, which disgusted some staff.
“He was acting like an idiot,” a former front-of-house worker told Insider. “We kind of felt like Boss had lost touch with everything.”
Humm announced its plans to reopen as a vegan operation last year, news that surprised both customers and employees
Humm said he’s committed to the change in his restaurants and said his daughters got him a hoodie that said “Too Big To Fail” despite his struggles
Normally occupied with hard-to-reach reservations, the restaurant now has open tables every night after reopening with its all-vegan menu
One of the biggest annoyances for employees came from Humm’s alleged refusal to increase their wages from the city’s $15 minimum wage, a hit to their wallets compounded by EMP’s tipping ban.
A former employee told Insider they had to turn down a generous $1,000 tip from Chipotle founder Steve Ells, whom they described as “offended” by the refusal.
A current employee said many of those who left EMP went to rival Danny Meyer’s restaurant, The Modern, where “they made more money” after Meyer’s ended its zero-tipping policy.
The low pay, coupled with long hours at EMP, where an 80-hour week is not uncommon, has even led to some collapsing during their shift, an employee told Insider.
“Everyone was depressed,” said the former kitchen worker. “Everyone said, ‘This place is not okay.'”
Arielle Smith, maître d’ since the relaunch until last February, told Insider that while she’s grateful for her job at EMP, during her short stay at the three-star Michelin restaurant, the culture and experience at the three-star Michelin restaurant took a big hit.
“This is the new EMP and everyone is new and nobody really knows how to do it at the level they did it,” she said.
Cucumber with melon and smoked radish – one of the 11 dishes of the tasting menu. Two chefs work full time for a whole day to prepare the ingredients for this dish
Aubergine with tomato and cilantro, which Wells said has a “sweet heaviness”
Angelina Jolie was among those attending 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, criticizing 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 dehydrated beetroot dish served in a clay pot that’s broken open at the table, saying it “tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint.” “.
The vegetable, Wells said, “did things no root vegetable should be asked to do,” and he accused Humm of manipulating the ingredients well beyond what was necessary.
A tomato dish was described by Wells as “pupated, distorted in flavor” like tomatoes running through a wah-wah pedal, a device used by musicians to distort the sound of an electric guitar.
Eleven Madison Park earned its first Michelin star in 2010. The following year it joined the elite group of three-star restaurants – a distinction it retained until its last ranking in May 2021.
Eleven Madison Park hadn’t reopened in time for the latest rankings post-COVID, meaning food watchers will have to wait until May 2022 to see if it can keep its coveted three stars with a plant-based menu.
There are only 134 three-star restaurants in the world; France and Japan each have 29, and the United States has 14.
New York City currently has five – as many as London.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10916937/Staff-slam-vegan-transition-Eleven-Madison-Park-reveal-skeleton-staff-remain.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Staff criticize Eleven Madison Park’s vegan transition and reveal only skeletal staff remains