The Shocking Reason Eleven Madison Park Allegedly Won't Increase Staff Pay

It hasn't been a good year for Eleven Madison Park, the high-end — and extremely pricey — Daniel Humm restaurant in New York City. In the fall of 2021, after closing during the pandemic and nearly going bankrupt, the restaurant reopened as a vegan establishment, serving a $335 tasting menu free of all animal products except milk and honey (via Eater). Shortly thereafter, the scathing reviews started rolling in, according to Insider, with the New York Times' Pete Wells writing in a September assessment that the menu's veggies were "so obviously standing in for meat or fish that you almost feel sorry for them" and revealing that the restaurant's private dining room, in opposition to Humm's supposed pro-sustainability views, still served meat.

Then, earlier this month, Insider published a scathing tell-all in which former EMP employees, some of them anonymous, reported weathering chaotic conditions at the restaurant, ranging from inhumane working hours to a huge amount of wasted food to low pay. Workers' unfair compensation is the subject of a new Insider exclusive article that ran recently, reporting that the restaurant was aware that it was underpaying kitchen and dining room staff, but decided not to raise wages as planned.

Eleven Madison Park did originally have plans to raise wages

According to an article published today on Insider, for which the outlet had exclusive access to an op-ed piece the restaurant drafted but never published, management at the fine dining restaurant Eleven Madison Park has been well aware of how poorly it has been compensating its workers. It planned to raise wages but decided not to after the New York Times published its famous September 2021 pan of the newly vegan eatery. Insider reports that Wall Street Journal writer Adam Davidson was hired to ghost write the article, in which restaurant management stated that it planned to increase worker wages and raise the price of its $335 tasting menu to $425 in order to offset the raises.

"It is absurd and unjust that people working in the kitchens and dining rooms of some of the finest restaurants in the world can barely afford their own food and rent," the draft read, according to Insider. "We are going to ensure that everybody working at Eleven Madison Park will receive a living wage of at least twenty dollars per hour."

But raises were scrapped after Wells' review

But according to the Insider article, the draft had not yet been pitched to outlets such as the New York Times when the publication ran its scathing review of the restaurant's new vegan menu. Chef Daniel Humm, who had been abroad when the review came out, returned to Eleven Madison Park and complained about critic Pete Wells to his staff, but did not raise either workers' wages or the price of the tasting menu. 

In February, however, the restaurant did reinstate tipping after five years of being a gratuity-free restaurant, according to Eater. "The cost of operating a restaurant in Manhattan has never been higher," EMP wrote in an email announcing the news to its customers. "As ever, our priority is to find ways to support our team; the individuals whose heart, dedication, and significance to this restaurant cannot be overstated." The email seems to contradict Humm's decision not to increase employee wages.

A former Eleven Madison Park employee who spoke to Insider anonymously told the outlet that the about-face on wages was representative of Humm's self-aggrandizing behavior and his lack of attention to the restaurant. "He's developed a level of arrogance that has now become a hazard to himself, and he has brought a really great classic New York institution down with him," the person told Insider. "I don't think he realizes that Eleven Madison Park isn't Daniel Humm...And what he's doing is destroying an institution that is larger than him."