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Eleven Madison Park Got $250K From AmEx by Just Asking

Can I do that?

Natural light floods the dining room at Eleven Madison Park, which sits empty before service Gary He/Eater

Eleven Madison Park received $250K from AmEx just by asking

Daniel Humm, owner of the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, received $250,000 from American Express in two days just by asking, Bloomberg reports. After Eleven Madison Park closed on March 16, Humm says that he realized that it would have cost “millions of dollars” to reopen between staffing, equipment, and sourcing costs. Instead, he decided to transform the restaurant into a commissary kitchen that prepares meals for people facing hunger through nonprofit Rethink Food. Not unlike other restaurateurs pivoting their business models, though, he needed the money to do it. “I went to American Express and said, ‘I need $250,000 in two days to get this started.’ And they came through,” Humm told Bloomberg in a May 4 interview. The money went through Rethink Food, where Humm sits on the board, to open up EMP for the nonprofit.

Close to two months later, the kitchen at EMP is now capable of producing 3,000 donated meals each day. If Eleven Madison Park reopens after the coronavirus pandemic — which Humm calls a “big question mark” — he says that the restaurant will continue to feed New Yorkers facing hunger, along with the “one percent.”

Addressing food access and hunger is a respectable pivot for a restaurant where meals regularly costs hundreds of dollars, but Eleven Madison Park’s large funding boost also raises some questions about who has access to cash in New York City right now. Many restaurants across the city and country are feeding frontline workers and other vulnerable populations as a means of keeping their staffs paid and their businesses alive, with California’s government going as far as paying restaurants to meet both resident and business needs. And while EMP seemed to quite easily pick up $250,000 from AmEx, grants offered to restaurants by Rethink cap out at $40,000.

In other news:

— Local non-profit City Harvest has kicked off its annual “Skip Lunch Fight Hunger” campaign, asking New Yorkers to donate what they would normally spend on lunch. A $15 donation will help feed 55 children for a day, a spokesperson for the non-profit says. Donations in any amount can be made by texting LUNCH to 20222.

— East Village wine bar Ruffian is available for takeout and delivery through a new online ordering option. The Ruffian Wine Shop has over 30 bottles listed, including orange wine starter packs and an assortment of sparkling wines, beers, and ciders called Harry Potter’s Adult Fizzing Whizbees. Orders are available for pick-up and delivery on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

— The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is buying meals from Nomad restaurants to support first responders — and the neighborhood. The local partnership has committed $10,000 to buying 100 meals each day that will be delivered to emergency medical services staff at Bellevue Hospital, two FDNY stations, and the NYPD 13th precinct.

— Queens residents have relaunched the Flushing CSA, a volunteer food co-op that delivers boxes of local produce to residents in the community. A year’s worth of deliveries through the community-supported agriculture program will cost $598 and provide about 25 weeks of vegetables, roughly $24 a week, local publication QNS reports.

— Non-profit Refed has launched a COVID Food Waste Solutions Fund that issues sizable grants to organizations tackling food waste and hunger relief. The fund aims to raise up to $10 million in donations, with initial funding already being given to Boston Area Gleaners, Food Rescue U.S., and SeaShare.

The League of Kitchens, an organization that hosts food classes in the homes of female immigrant chefs, is taking some of its courses online. The group’s classes this month, which cover Uzbek and Persian cooking, are more than two hours long and cost $60 per person.

Alta Calidad has reopened for Cinco de Mayo taco delivery. The beloved Prospect Heights Mexican restaurant previously closed its doors on March 25, but is back today for takeout and delivery orders of taco platters, batched margaritas and double sides of guacamole. Order through the restaurant’s website.

— New York legislators have introduced a bill that would require insurance companies to pay out business-interruption claims related to the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reports. Needless to say, insurance companies aren’t thrilled.

— West Coast-style taqueria Dos Toros is serving up taco kits for Cinco de Mayo. The $45 kit includes enough chicken, carnitas, peppers, and guacamole to make 12 tacos.

— Buzzy Basque restaurant Ernesto’s and Japanese-French fusion spot Maison Yaki have both landed a spot on GQ’s list of best new restaurants this year.

— Where are they now: