Anthony Bourdain’s primary partner in the highly anticipated Bourdain Market has formally left management of the project. Stephen Werther, a retail entrepreneur who also owns West Village restaurant Suprema Provisions, stepped down recently as CEO to pursue a new business, Werther confirms to Eater.
It’s a significant personnel change for Bourdain’s Singapore-hawker-inspired food hall. Werther began developing the idea with Bourdain in 2014, and has lead its long-running real estate negotiations, among other responsibilities. In May 2015, word got out that Werther and Bourdain were in serious talks to open the Singapore hawker market-style project on the SuperPier, now the presumed home for the Bourdain Market — which has been touting a 2019 debut.
The news comes as sources tell Eater that Bourdain has yet to sign a lease with the developers, YoungWoo & Associates and RXR Realty. They continue to talk to backup tenants for the Super Pier, including the team behind the Gansevoort Market, sources say. As recently as two months ago, the developers held meetings with Eataly, though Mario Batali tells Eater that talks did not lead anywhere.
Werther says that he is stepping down because his new venture, which will promote Asian food culture abroad, presents a conflict of interest. The new business will aim to bring Chinese food-related businesses to regions outside of Asia. For example, he plans to potentially connect Chinese restaurants to opportunities in food halls and markets in the U.S. — including Bourdain Market and its competitors.
“I'm definitely more interested in traveling and eating at this point in my life than I am in plumbing and ventilation,” Werther says in a statement. He plans to travel across Asia for the new project.
No new CEO for the Bourdain Market has been announced.
RXR Realty did not respond to requests for comment; YoungWoo declined to comment. Gansevoort Market head Chris Reda also declined to comment. Back in the fall, YoungWoo emphasized that it has never formally announced a tenant for the space.
A loss of the CEO, an unsigned lease, and talks with backup tenants make the future of the market more uncertain than it seemed as recently as February, when Bourdain discussed it at length in the New Yorker.
Still, it would be a drastic move for the developers to dump Bourdain now. Construction of the pier itself is well underway, and Governor Andrew Cuomo had named the market as a chief selling point of the SuperPier project when he approved it in December 2015. A spokesperson for Hudson River Park Trust, which manages the pier, declined to comment on this story.