As mentioned last month, mega-restaurateur Danny Meyer is the star of a new documentary from director Roger Sherman called "The Restaurateur." After it debuted at the Sonoma Film Festival, it is hitting New York for a couple of private screenings later this month before being available for public viewing.
Team Eater got our hands on a copy of the film, and it's fascinating for anyone obsessed with plywood porn. The movie follows Danny (and a young looking Tom Colicchio) through the simultaneous 1998 openings of his restaurants Eleven Madison Park and Tabla, the creations of the menus, the difficult staffing, the eleventh hour chef shuffling, and the early reviews. The most interesting part of the film, however, is the decision to replace chef Kerry Heffernan with Daniel Humm. Take it away Danny:
It was never my goal that Eleven Madison Park become a four star restaurant. My goal was that people would come in here and say, "I've never had food this good in a brasserie in my entire life." The restaurant under Kerry's watch had risen to 13th most popular in the Zagat Survey. So when we learned that Ruth Reichl had given Eleven Madison Park a middling two star review, I ran over to the restaurant and I saw a chef and a general manager right here in this room sobbing with their heads in their hands.Thus ensues a nationwide chef search that ends in San Francisco with Humm. The chef took six months to decide, "You don't want to come to New York and fail."
The New York Times gets a new restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and he gives it yet another two star review and it was crushing. It started to dawn on me that something was really going to have to change. I love Kerry. Every time he did a big party people said it was the best party they had ever gone to. So I asked if he would become the opening chef for Hudson Yards, our catering company. That gave me the chance to say it's not a brasserie. It is a gorgeous, stately, grand restaurant. And what we really need to do is to go out and find somebody who's cooking is the right piece of art for this frame.
Later, GM Will Guidara adds that the addition of Humm alone wouldn't have resulted in the eventual Bruni four star: "Some of that is just spending. I mean when we went to tell them that we wanted four stars it was also alongside a request for a bunch of money." They doubled their kitchen staff, added eight sous chefs, updated the chairs, decreased the number of people seated at each banquette. And voila! It only took three chefs and a decade of work. Here's the trailer: