Chef Paul Liebrandt has left Corton, the two Michelin-star Tribeca fine dining restaurant that he opened with Drew Nieporent in 2008. The restaurant quietly closed for a summer break the week before Liebrandt opened his new Williamsburg restaurant in the King & Grove hotel, The Elm. In a statement sent to the Times, the chef notes:
It has been a wonderful five years and I value the experience I had there and thank everyone who has worked so hard with me at Corton. I felt it was the right time to move on to new and different projects which, in addition to the Elm, are already in the planning stages, including a signature Paul Liebrandt restaurant.Liebrandt will open that new restaurant with the people from the King & Grove. No word yet on where it will be, but according to publicist Jennifer Baum, the restaurant "will not be casual at all."
The big question now is whether or not Nieporent will reopen Corton with another chef or a different concept. The Times report notes: "In a brief phone conversation on Saturday, Mr. Nieporent said he was still weighing his options for the restaurant." Corton was very much a showcase for Liebrandt, who was both the chef and co-owner. It's hard to imagine the Corton brand living on without the chef at the restaurant.
UPDATE 1: Drew Nieporent released a statement on Corton's website:
After five years of significant achievement at Corton, we've parted ways with Paul Liebrandt. We thank our terrific staff for their hard work and commitment and the best customers any restaurant could hope for. It's time to reassess. Our options are open and I'm certain exciting things lie in our future. – Drew, July 27, 2013UPDATE 2: Drew tells Grub Street: "Paul was my partner...He wasn't my employee. And partners can't be your competitors. You can't take the same product, sell it at half the price, and then just move it to Brooklyn...Corton was a huge achievement for both he and I. That's something I stand by. It was absolutely stellar." Grub Street hears that Drew announced Paul's departure at a staff meeting last night, which Liebrandt did not attend. Drew also notes that he has a "very good relationship" with the landlord.
UPDATE 3: Jeff Gordinier updates the Times post with some new intel. Apparently, Drew explored the possibility of Liebrandt buying Corton outright — similar to what happened with Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, and Danny Meyer at Eleven Madison Park — but the idea never took off. The restaurateur also explains: "I'm not saying it's going to continue on, or close...At this moment I haven't made that decision." And, apparently, Drew has talked with chefs who are interested in working with him in that space. From Nieporent: "It's less of me approaching people and it's more people approaching me, and that's gratifying in a large way...Keep your eyes open, because something exciting's going to follow."
· Paul Liebrandt Is Leaving Corton [NYT]
· Paul Liebrandt Leaves Corton in Tribeca [GS/NYM]
· All Coverage of The Elm [The Elm]