Staff slam vegan transition of Eleven Madison Park and reveal that only skeleton staff remain


‘It’s farm to trash’: Furious staff slam shambolic vegan transition of Eleven Madison Park for 80-weeks: Reveal that only skeleton staff remain and claim three-star Michelin restaurant now buys wholesale not from local producers

  • Current and former staff members at Eleven Madison Park said they suffered from long hours, low wages and unreasonable requests from their bosses
  • One employee said he was asked to get picture perfect ingredients wherever he could find them, with half the food he purchased tossed in the trash 
  • Others claimed owner and chef Daniel Humm was far too busy being a celebrity and hanging out with stars to visit the restaurant 
  • Former employees said they had seen several coworkers breakdown over their 80-hour work week while enforcing the restaurant’s no tipping policy 
  • The troubles began after Humm reopened EMP as a vegan restaurant last year, but received a harsh review from the New York Times 

Current and former staff members at the troubled Eleven Madison Park (EMP) restaurant slammed their ex-boss’ decision to go fully vegan 80-weeks ago, claiming the eatery now runs on a skeleton staff where chef’s are more preoccupied with appearances than fresh ingredients.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, seven current and former employees at the three-star Michelin restaurant told Business Insider the establishment was plagued with understaffing and chaos after head chef Daniel Humm, 46, turned everything vegan during its reopening last year.

Following the surprise move, employees said there was a mass exodus while new hires got burned out quickly, all while Humm allegedly reveled in his status as a celebrity chef who was dating actress Demi Moore.  

‘There were suddenly sous-chefs who were walking out of the restaurant,’ a line cook who quit in 2021 told Insider. ‘There were cooks who were walking out of the restaurant.’ 

‘It was just, to put it very simply, a s**t show.’ 

Daniel Humm, 46, (pictured) the head chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park has lost staff after staff following his restaurant's sudden transition to a vegan menu last year

Daniel Humm, 46, (pictured) the head chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park has lost staff after staff following his restaurant’s sudden transition to a vegan menu last year

Current and former staff members told Business Insider they suffered from long hours, low wages and unreasonable requests from their bosses

Current and former staff members told Business Insider they suffered from long hours, low wages and unreasonable requests from their bosses 

They also claimed Humm was more committed to his status as a celebrity chef than being in the restaurant. Hum (left) is pictured with girlfriend actress Demi Moore in Paris last week

They also claimed Humm was more committed to his status as a celebrity chef than being in the restaurant. Hum (left) is pictured with girlfriend actress Demi Moore in Paris last week

Eleven Madison Park’s $335 11-course menu 

TOMATO

tea with lemon verbena

salad with strawberry and shiso

yellow tomato dosa

CELTUCE

in variation with rice

TONBURI

with peas and baby lettuce

CUCUMBER

with melon and smoked daikon

SUMMER SQUASH

with lemongrass and marinated tofu

SWEET PEPPER

with Swiss chard

BEET

with horseradish and herbs

EGGPLANT

with tomato and coriander

sides: summer beans with green onion, corn with juniper

STRAWBERRY

marinated with thyme

BLUEBERRY

with elderflower

SESAME

chocolate pretzel

Advertisement

Chandler Yerves, one EMP employee who did speak on the record, told Insider that after he was hired in May 2021 a junior prep cook, a sous-chef instructed him to go buy 5-inch red peppers and that they be exactly like they ones the restaurant portrays in their menu. 

Yerves said his bosses didn’t care where he got them from, only that they look like the photos from the restaurant, with the young cook 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 trash’ pipeline. 

Not only was the waste of food demoralizing, but Yerves said he grew exhausted only being paid $15 hour while spending 20-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week, dedicated to the restaurant, which charges $335 for its vegan tasting menu.  

‘It was definitely a huge toll on my mental health,’ Yerves, who quit in November 2021, told Insider. ‘It was definitely the most egotistical restaurant I’ve ever been in in my life.’ 

Six former employees added that they too ditched the restaurant due to low pay, long hours, and a lack of support.   

A representative for the restaurant said in a statement that the Humm was proud of his work and would not change his plans for EMP. 

‘When Daniel reopened Eleven Madison Park post-pandemic, he told the New York Times that ‘we couldn’t go back to doing what we did before,” the rep wrote. ‘Neither the restaurant nor the plan to retreat from these necessary changes due to some mostly anonymous and flat-out erroneous critiques from former employees, competitors and other agenda-driven sources.’

Despite Humm’s vow that he was 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 one such instance came last year when actor Woody Harrelson stopped by the restaurant and claimed Humm danced around the kitchen and lit up a joint, disgusting some employees. 

‘He acted like an idiot,’ a former front-of-house employee told Insider. ‘We kind of felt that Chef had lost touch with everything.’ 

Humm had announced his plans to reopen as a vegan establishment last year, a message that came to the surprise of both customers and employees alike

Humm had announced his plans to reopen as a vegan establishment last year, a message that came to the surprise of both customers and employees alike

Humm said he was committed to the change at his restaurants and said his daughters had gifted him a hoodie that read, 'Too Big To Fail' despite his troubles

Humm said he was committed to the change at his restaurants and said his daughters had gifted him a hoodie that read, ‘Too Big To Fail’ despite his troubles

Normally backed with reservations hard to get to, the restaurant now has open tables every night after it reopened with its all-vegan menu

Normally backed with reservations hard to get to, the restaurant now has open tables every night after it reopened with its all-vegan menu

One of the biggest irks for the employees came at Humm’s alleged refusal to raise their wages from the city’s $15 minimum, a blow to their wallets that was only compounded by EMP’s banning of tips. 

A former employee told Insider that they had to refuse a generous $1,000 tip from Chipotle founder Steve Ells, who they called as feeling ‘insulted’ by the rejection. 

A currently employee said many of those who quit EMP went on to the rival Danny Meyer’s restaurant, The Modern, where ‘they were making more money’ after Meyer’s ended his no tipping policy. 

The low-pay, coupled with long hours at EMP, where it’s not unusual to work an 80-hour-work week, had even caused some to break down during their shifts, one employee told Insider. 

‘Everyone was depressed,’ the former kitchen employee said. ‘Everyone was like, ‘This place is not OK.”  

Arielle Smith, a maître d’ from the relaunch until this past February, told Insider that while she was grateful for her job at EMP, she saw the culture and experience at the three-star Michelin restaurant plummet in her short stay. 

‘This is the new EMP, and everybody is new, and no one really knows how to do this at the level that they’ve been doing it,’ she said.

Cucumber with melon and smoked daikon - one of the 11 dishes on the tasting menu. Two chefs work full-time for a whole day to prepare the ingredients for this dish

Cucumber with melon and smoked daikon – one of the 11 dishes on the tasting menu. Two chefs work full-time for a whole day to prepare the ingredients for this dish

Eggplant with tomato and cilantro, which Wells said had a 'cloying heaviness'

Eggplant with tomato and cilantro, which Wells said had a ‘cloying heaviness’

Angelina Jolie was among those who attended the re-opening night, back in June

Angelina Jolie was among those who attended the re-opening night, back in June

Humm’s restaurant fell into trouble last October after his vegan menu received a scathing review in the New York Times, and it slammed the fact that those who booked a private dining room in 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 is broken open at the table, saying that it ‘tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint.’ 

The vegetables, Wells said, were ‘doing things no root vegetable should be asked to do’, and he accused Humm of manipulating the ingredients far beyond necessary.

A tomato dish was described by Wells as having a ‘pumped-up, distorted flavor, like tomatoes run 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-starred restaurants – an accolade it has maintained until the last ranking, in May 2021.

Eleven Madison Park had not reopened post-COVID in time for the latest rankings, meaning food-watchers must wait until May 2022 to see whether it can hold onto its three coveted stars with a plant-based menu.

There are only 134 three-starred restaurants in the world; France and Japan have 29 each, and there are 14 in the United States.

New York City currently has five – the same number as London.

Source

Related posts