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Eleven Madison Park Reportedly Dropped Plans to Pay Staff More After Scathing Review

Chef Daniel Humm’s fine dining restaurant scrapped plans to overhaul its wages after a bad New York Times review, a new report alleges

Eleven Madison Park
Drama around Eleven Madison Park continues.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Eleven Madison Park reportedly knows that it pays its cooks rock-bottom wages, but scrapped a plan to raise wages for its staffers after a negative New York Times review last September.

A new report from Business Insider alleges that Eleven Madison Park was aware its wages were “too little,” and didn’t follow through on proposed changes to its payscale last fall. According to the publication, in September 2021, the restaurant commissioned a ghostwriter to pen an op-ed announcing that EMP was increasing employee wages by 33 percent, with $20 per hour as the new minimum hourly wage. EMP’s tasting menu, priced at $335 per person, was reportedly calculated in part on a $15-per-hour wage for kitchen workers. To account for the wage hike, the restaurant reportedly planned to increase the price of its tasting menu up to $425.

But after a negative review from the New York Times’ Pete Wells of the newly meatless restaurant, the restaurant reportedly scrapped plans to pitch the op-ed — which they hoped to publish in the Times — and enact the wage increase, according to Business Insider. In January, Eleven Madison Park got rid of its no-tipping policy bringing the price of its tasting menu to $863 for two diners after tax and a 20 percent tip. The move increased some employees wages, but the $20 minimum hourly wage never went into effect.

In the unpublished op-ed, leaked to Business Insider, chef and owner Daniel Humm acknowledged the effect of EMP’s $15-per-hour wages on diversity and staff retention. “I didn’t pay enough attention to the fact that, by paying low wages, I was unintentionally excluding so many from my kitchen,” the text reads. “Today, I realize that countless people, especially many women and people of color, were never able to become chefs because they couldn’t work such long hours for so little money.”

Earlier this month, several former employees of Eleven Madison Park told Business Insider that after Humm converted the fine dining establishment to become a vegan restaurant in June 2021, operations had become a “shit show.” At the time, accusations from former employees ran the gamut from misrepresented food sourcing, food waste, low wages, and a toxic work environment.