Conant, Burrell Find Mixed Luck During Downturn

Conant, Burrell Find Mixed Luck During Downturn

Photo: Joshua David Stein

By Saturday afternoon, most New York City chefs had already been slow-roasted in the seemingly endless tide of champagne and meat products offered by the New York Wine & Food Festival's many sponsors. A couple of them, however, were still relatively together enough for a panel discussion on cooking in New York City at Soho House. For the five panelists — Anita Lo, Scott Conant, Anne Burrell, Michael Lomonaco, Joey Campanaro, and Mikey Price — cooking in New York had been both lucky and unlucky.

The Unlucky:
Anita Lo: Quiet and slumped in the corner, Ms. Lo has clearly not had the best year. Annisa burned down in a fire. Bar Q closed. "I've had a lot of contraction," she said mournfully. "After Black Monday, we lost 70 percent of business at Bar Q, and we had a terrible fire at Annisa right before I appeared on Top Chef Masters. It was devastating. So any money I thought we'd bring in, we didn't." Nevertheless, Lo predicts Annisa will reopen in November.

The Lucky
Scott Conant: Scarpetta king Scott Conant has of course been affected by the economic downturn, but not so much that he won't be expanding in 2010. "We had two projects in Las Vegas but the whole thing went bankrupt," he said. "We had to close in Miami for one day a week, but we're opening Scarpetta Toronto in April, so it's a balance of contraction and expansion."

Those With Mixed Luck
Anne Burrell: "The downturn has pushed back my plans to get into the restaurant business," said the chef. Her Food Network show — ironically titled Secrets of A Restaurant Chef — is doing well.

Mikey Price and Joey Campanaro: The team behind Market Table were the panel's serious ones, especially Mikey Price who had the best line of the event. When asked how the recession has affected him, he said: "We are in the hospitality business. If you only started being hospitable after the downturn, you're probably already closed." According to Joey Campanaro, "I don't make nearly as much money as I used to, but that doesn't change the way I cook." In fact, Mikey Price is adding more. "I'm trying to give some added value to the plate," he said. So, tables still packed but profit margins down. All in all, the guys are doing well.

Mike Lomonaco: The chef is offering more and more off-market cuts at his UWS resto Porter House. "Not as many people are coming in and ordering top-dollar prime product, but we have a range of other lower-end cuts like strip and hanger steaks. We even have a roast chicken." We suggest he throw that chicken in the fryer.

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