The horrible year for the dining trade is driving a growing number of chefs – even in the group of the best-known names – to explore alternative strategies to reach their customers, and win the heart of new ones. It happens in France – where restaurants have now been closed since the end of last October – in the peculiar form of signature street food, operated on board food trucks: a formula that several well-known faces of national haute cuisine are preferring to the more widespread and transversal food delivery, which instead is the most popular in Italy. Meanwhile, in New York, the continuing progress of a successful vaccination campaign is giving the city the opportunity to reopen. And therefore dining out has also restarted, albeit after very difficult months, which led to the definitive closure of many businesses, and the loss of thousands of jobs.
Eleven Madison Truck. Daniel Humm for the community
To all those struggling, in the context of a crisis that includes health, economy and employment, which has ended up increasing the ranks of poor people and families in poverty all over the world, yet another solidarity initiative is dedicated from Eleven Madison Park. Even the famous New York restaurant, which will wait for better times to reopen to the public, has chosen to invest in a food truck, but with objectives that go beyond the scope of profit. Down during the first New York lockdown a year ago, Daniel Humm and his team had chosen to transform the kitchen of one of the most exclusive restaurants in New York (and the world, Three Michelin Stars and a plethora of awards) into a kind of field kitchen for the preparation of over three thousand hot meals a day distributed free of charge to healthcare personnel and people in need, in collaboration with the non-profit organization Rethink Food (of which Humm is co-founder, together with Matt Jozwiak). The partnership was consolidated over the last few months, and Eleven Madison Truck, which will start operating from April 12, moving between Brooklyn and the Bronx, is the confirmation of a commitment that the Swiss chef has every intention to renew to herald the community towards recovery (“I no longer want to serve only 1% of the community, we will continue to feed the people who have nothing,” explained the chef a year ago, reflecting on the need to change pace).
The solidarity food truck
The mobile kitchen, built aboard an easily recognizable blue vehicle, will serve about two thousand free meals a week, operating in the poorest neighbourhoods: the work will be partly financed with the revenues from take-out developed in recent months (for for every $275 kit sold, EMP pledged to donate ten meals). When Eleven Madison Park will reopen its doors – probably by the first half of June – part of the restaurant’s proceeds will also go to feed the food truck project, in the form of a donation for each paying guest. But suppliers will also be involved in the operation and commercial relations with producers willing to support the project are privileged, donating quality products for the preparation of free meals. This is an attempt to make the service sustainable and permanent: excluding food costs, in fact, keeping the truck running would cost 16,000 dollars a month. At work on the vehicle, the chefs normally in the restaurant team will take turns, with pastry chef Laura Cronin supervising operations; and the menu has been designed to provide an adequate nutritional intake for the purpose, focusing above all on chicken, proposed in combination with vegetables and grains (but there will also be vegetarian options). In this way, Eleven Madison Park and Rethink will continue to work side by side, “because one cannot exist without the other,” concludes Humm interviewed by Bloomberg, now aware of the positive role that a chef can (and must) play in helping the community.