The film opens in the dining room of Eleven Madison Park, December 9, 2009. Meyer confides to the camera: “After Tabla and Eleven Madison Park opened, I was pretty convinced I’d made one of the worst professional mistakes of my life.” Fade to a vast, concrete space, January 22, 1998. A much younger-looking Meyer enters from the shadows, “This will be Eleven Madison Park, which we hope will be a great restaurant.” Tom Colicchio, chef of Gramercy Tavern, also younger looking (with hair), enters the site; Meyer gives him a tour of his hopes and dreams.
We follow the restaurateur and his team for eleven months as they experience gut-wrenching construction delays, miss alarming deadlines, and fire the chef of Eleven Madison Park. We see why the space became two restaurants, how a jazz concert gave Meyer the idea for Tabla, the first fine dining Indian-inspired restaurant in the U.S. Our cameras visit Tabla’s chef Floyd Cardoz in his tiny home kitchen where he creates his now classic watermelon curry. We’re there as chef Kerry Heffernan takes over EMP just weeks before opening.
Back to the present, Tabla received three stars in The New York Times; EMP gets two middling two-star reviews first from Ruth Reichl and later from Frank Bruni. Danny tell us, “I arrived at the restaurant to find the chef and GM literally crying. I realized it was time for a change.” A countrywide search brings in Daniel Humm from Campton Place in San Francisco. He explains how the restaurant was transformed: “We doubled the staff.” They received first three, then four stars from The New York Times, one of only six restaurants to be so honored.
Danny Meyer bares all in this portrait. Watching him and his inner circle, we witness first-hand how incredibly difficult it is to create a world-class restaurant. The RESTAURATEUR is nothing like those reality shows. This is real.