Eleven Madison Park worker was yelled at for scooping ice 'too loudly'

Eleven Madison Park cook who earned $15 an hour at $335-a-person eatery lifts lid on horrific working conditions: Says he was made to work 20-HOUR shifts with a broken ankle – and was yelled at for scooping ICE ‘too loudly’

  • Chandler Yerves was hired as a junior prep cook at the upscale New York City eatery in May 2021 
  • His new job began around the same time that owner and head chef, Daniel Humm, announced the acclaimed restaurant was switching to an all-vegan menu
  • Yerves said he had to work 20-hour shifts, six days a week, on very little sleep and that he was screamed at for things like making too much noise in the kitchen
  • He said it took ‘a huge toll’ on his mental health’ before he quit in November, calling it ‘the most egotistical restaurant he’s ever been in in his life’ 
  • More former staff members and current employees at the prestigious three-star Michelin restaurant spoke out about their negative experiences to Insider
  • Staffers claimed they were paid minimum wage at the establishment, which they said was plagued with understaffing and chaos, and that Humm banned tipping

A former Eleven Madison Park worker – who earned $15 an hour at the $335-a-person restaurant – opened up about the working conditions at the eatery, claiming he had to do 20-hour shifts with a broken ankle and that he was yelled at for scooping ice ‘too loudly’ in the kitchen.

Chandler Yerves dreamed of working at the acclaimed New York City restaurant – which is located on Madison Avenue, in between 24th and 25th street in Manhattan, was once named the best restaurant in the world, and has had many celebrity guests including Leonardo DiCaprio and Martha Stewart – since he was a child. 

The chef was hired as a junior prep cook at the upscale restaurant, known as EMP for short, in May 2021 – around the same time that it reopened and announced it was switching to an all-vegan menu after spending 15 months closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, soon after he got the job, Yerves realized it wasn’t exactly what he thought it would be – claiming that he worked long hours on very little sleep and was screamed at for things like making too much noise while getting ice from the freezer in its infamous ‘silent kitchen.’ 

Yerves explained to Insider that he had to wake up at 4AM and would work more than 20 hours a day six days a week, often not getting to bed until midnight, and standing for hours on end – despite having a broken ankle at the time.

A former Eleven Madison Park worker (pictured left with his girlfriend) claimed he had to do 20-hour shifts with a broken ankle and that he was yelled at for scooping ice ‘too loudly’

The acclaimed New York City restaurant – which is located on Madison Avenue, in between 24th and 25th street in Manhattan – charges $335-a-person for a pre-set 11-course meal

Chandler Yerves (pictured center with his girlfriend) was hired as a junior prep cook at the upscale New York City eatery in May 2021

His new job began around the same time that owner and head chef, Daniel Humm (pictured), 46, announced the acclaimed restaurant was switching to an all-vegan menu 

He said he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to wear his medical boot in the kitchen, since it left his toes open.

At one point, Yerves claimed that a sous-chef made him search all around the city for peppers that were exactly five inches long, which meant he had to go from store to store with a ruler, measuring the vegetables until he found enough that were the right size.

Yerves (seen with his girlfriend) said he had to work 20-hour shifts, six days a week, on very little sleep and that he was screamed at for things like making too much noise in the kitchen

After spending more than two hours gathering the perfect peppers, he said most of them ended up being thrown in the trash by the sous-chef. 

He claimed he would see ‘bins upon bins’ of wasted produce get thrown out, despite EMP’s owner and head chef, Daniel Humm, often preaching about the restaurants ‘commitment to sustainability.’

Yerves quit the ‘egotistical’ restaurant in November, and he now works at Cut by Wolfgang Puck. 

‘It was definitely a huge toll on my mental health,’ he told the outlet during a recent interview. ‘It was definitely the most egotistical restaurant I’ve ever been in in my life.’

In a previous story published by Insider, more former staff members – as well as current employees – at the prestigious three-star Michelin restaurant spoke out about their negative experiences while working there, claiming that the ‘s**t show’ eatery is more focused on appearances than making good food.

The staffers – most of whom decided to remain anonymous – said the establishment was plagued with understaffing and chaos after head chef Humm, 46, turned everything vegan during its reopening last year.

More former staff members and current employees at the prestigious three-star Michelin restaurant spoke out about their negative experiences to Insider 

They claimed Humm was more committed to his status as a celebrity chef than being in the restaurant. Hum (left) is pictured with girlfriend actress Demi Moore in Paris last week

Yerves said it took ‘a huge toll’ on his mental health’ before he quit in November, calling it ‘the most egotistical restaurant he’s ever been in in his life’ 

Following the surprise move, employees said there was a mass exodus and new hires got burned out quickly, all while Humm allegedly reveled in his status as a celebrity chef who was dating actress Demi Moore. 

Eleven Madison Park’s $335 11-course menu 

TOMATO

Tea with lemon verbena

Salad with strawberry and shiso

Yellow tomato dosa

CELTUCE

In variation with rice

TONBURI

With peas and baby lettuce

CUCUMBER

With melon and smoked daikon

SUMMER SQUASH

With lemongrass and marinated tofu

SWEET PEPPER

With Swiss chard

BEET

With horseradish and herbs

EGGPLANT

With tomato and coriander

Sides: summer beans with green onion, corn with juniper

STRAWBERRY

Marinated with thyme

BLUEBERRY

With elderflower

SESAME

Chocolate pretzel

On top of Yerves, six other former employees said that they too ditched the restaurant due to low pay, long hours, and a lack of support. 

‘There were suddenly sous-chefs who were walking out of the restaurant,’ one line cook, who quit in 2021, told Insider. 

‘There were cooks who were walking out of the restaurant. It was just, to put it very simply, a s**t show.’ 

A representative for the restaurant – which charges $335-a-person for a pre-set 11-course tasting meal – said in a statement that Humm was proud of his work at EMP, and that he had no plans to change anything amid the ‘flat-out erroneous critiques.’

‘When Daniel reopened Eleven Madison Park post-pandemic, he told the New York Times that “we couldn’t go back to doing what we did before,”’ the rep wrote. ‘Neither the restaurant nor the plan to retreat from these necessary changes due to some mostly anonymous and flat-out erroneous critiques from former employees, competitors. and other agenda-driven sources.’

Despite Humm’s vow that he was deeply committed to the restaurant, former employees told Insider that the chef rarely visited the kitchen unless it was to take VIP guests on tours. 

Yerves recalled one such alleged instance, which came last year when actor Woody Harrelson stopped by the restaurant, claiming that Humm danced around the kitchen and lit up a joint, disgusting some employees. 

‘He acted like an idiot,’ a former front-of-house said. ‘We kind of felt that [Humm] had lost touch with everything.’ 

One of the biggest irks for the employees was Humm’s alleged refusal to raise their wages from the city’s $15 an hour minimum, a blow to their wallets that was only compounded by EMP’s banning of tips. 

An anonymous former employee told Insider that they once had to refuse a generous $1,000 tip from Chipotle founder Steve Ells, who they said seemed ‘insulted’ by the rejection. 

The low-pay, coupled with long hours at EMP – where it’s not unusual to work an 80-hour-work week – had even caused some to break down during their shifts, one staffer alleged. 

Humm had announced his plans to reopen as a vegan establishment last year, a message that came to the surprise of both customers and employees alike

A representative for the restaurant said that Humm (pictured with his daughters) was proud of his work at EMP, and had no plans to change anything amid the ‘flat-out erroneous critiques’ 

‘Everyone was depressed,’ the former kitchen employee said. ‘Everyone was like, “This place is not OK.”’

Arielle Smith, who worked as a maître d’ from the relaunch until this past February, told the outlet that while she was grateful for her job at EMP, she saw the culture and experience at the acclaimed restaurant plummet during her short stay. 

‘This is the new EMP, and everybody is new, and no one really knows how to do this at the level that they’ve been doing it,’ she explained.

Humm’s restaurant fell into trouble last October after his vegan menu received a scathing review in the New York Times, with the outlet slamming the fact that those who booked a private dining room in the back of the restaurant could still order meat.

New York Times critic Pete Wells had little time for a dehydrated beetroot dish served in a clay pot that is broken open at the table, saying it ‘tasted like Lemon Pledge and smelled like a burning joint.’ 

One of the biggest irks for the employees was Humm’s alleged refusal to raise their wages from $15 an hour. Cucumber with melon and smoked daikon – a dish on the menu is pictured

It was also said the Humm banned customers from tipping employees. Eggplant with tomato and cilantro, another dish on the 11-course menu, is pictured

The vegetables, Wells said, were ‘doing things no root vegetable should be asked to do,’ and he accused Humm of manipulating the ingredients far beyond necessary.

A tomato dish was described by Wells as having a ‘pumped-up, distorted flavor, like tomatoes run through a wah-wah pedal’ – a device used by musicians to distort the sound of an electric guitar.

Eleven Madison Park won its first Michelin star in 2010. The following year – the same year it was taken over by Humm – it joined the elite group of three-starred restaurants – an accolade it has maintained until the last ranking, in May 2021.

There are only 134 three-starred restaurants in the world; France and Japan have 29 each, and there are 14 in the United States. New York City currently has five – the same number as London.

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