Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Danny Meyer's 4-star break with convention

I’ve witnessed some amazing things in 27 years of covering restaurants. What Danny Meyer is doing with Eleven Madison Park is definitely on that list as of today—ironically, the very day Michelin awarded the midtown restaurant a third star.

Meyer will have a chance to relish the resulting upsweep in business, but not for long. As New York Times reporter Glenn Collins reported in a Times blog, Meyer is selling Eleven Madison to its manager and executive chef.

The reason? The pair admitted to the famed restaurateur that they hoped to build something of their own while still on the payroll. Meyer wasn’t comfortable with his employees doing double-time as competitors. But he didn’t like the idea of parting with the duo because they were critical to maintaining Eleven Madison’s quality and success. It has a four-star rating from the New York Times, which is harder to land than a rent-controlled two-bedroom apartment with a doorman. In Gramercy Park.

So, Meyer said, he decided to sell them the place. No bidding war, no pitting suitor against suitor. Just a deal hammered out between mentor and protégées.

One more extraordinary thing: The turn of events is spelled out not in Meyer’s blog, but on the galleys of a book that will be published next month. Meyer provided the account in the forward to “The Eleven Madison Park Cookbook.”

He stopped short of revealing the specifics of the deal, like the price. But Collins reported that the transaction is expected to close by Jan. 1.

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