Former cook at NY Michelin Star restaurant reveals horrific working conditions and tons of wasted food

Soon after starting work at the restaurant, Chandler Yerves realised it was not at all what he had hoped for. Picture: Pexels

Soon after starting work at the restaurant, Chandler Yerves realised it was not at all what he had hoped for. Picture: Pexels

Published Jul 13, 2022


A former employee at New York's Eleven Madison Park, a three-star Michelin restaurant, recently spilt the beans on the establishment's abhorrent working conditions and sickening food wastage in an exclusive interview with Business Insider.

Chandler Yerves, who earned $15 an hour (minimum wage in the US) at the $335 (R5 360) -a-person restaurant, spoke 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.

Yerves was hired as a junior prep cook at the upscale restaurant, known as EMP for short, in May 2021. He was hired shortly after the restaurant reopened and announced that it was switching to an all-vegan menu after it shut its doors for over a year due to the pandemic.

Soon after starting work at the restaurant, Yerves realised it was not at all what he had hoped for. He claimed that he was made to work extremely long hours on very little sleep and was screamed at for things like making too much noise while getting ice from the freezer in the restaurant's infamous “silent kitchen.”

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.

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.

Yerves claimed that he would see "bins upon bins" of wasted fresh produce getting thrown out, despite the restaurant's preaching about its staunch commitment to sustainability.

Although the owner was claiming to be making this change out of concern for the environment, the allegations of food waste at the restaurant make these claims dubious, at best, since food waste is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions in the US than airline travel.

More than a third of all food grown in the US ends up in the garbage, according to a recent study by the environmental protection agency.

"It was definitely a huge toll on my mental health," he told Insider during a recent interview.

"It was definitely the most egotistical restaurant I've ever been in in my life," he said.

More former staff members and current employees at the prestigious three-star Michelin restaurant spoke out about their negative experiences to Insider. They claimed that the owner, Daniel Humm was more committed to his status as a celebrity chef than being in the restaurant.

A representative for the restaurant said in a statement that the establishment was proud of its work and that he had no plans to change anything amid the "flat-out erroneous critiques."

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 he 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.

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.

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

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