Restaurateurs Biting the Recession Bullet, But David Bouley Soldiers On

Forge, a restaurant in Tribeca owned by 29-year-old chef Marc Forgione, had a party of 15 booked last Friday, and a party of eight last Monday. The Friday party canceled after six of the 15 Wall Street-employed guests got laid off; a few days later, the Monday party also canceled when four of the eight guests were laid off, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Amidst the grim state of downtown restaurant scene that is only likely to worsen as more and more Wall Street employees face lay-offs, chef David Bouley isn’t worried.

Mr. Bouley has long been planning an expansion of his restaurant empire, which by spring will include six Tribeca restaurants, two gourmet markets, a test kitchen and a production kitchen, according to the WSJ. Bouley, his flagship restaurant will move into a new space. Across the street, he will open Secession—rhymes with recession!—a restaurant serving French, Italian, and Meditarrenian cousine. Then there are plans for 10 Hudson Square, a restaurant, market and production kitchen slated for next year, and Brush Stroke, a three-story Japanese restaurant that will open in May. 

"I’m going to get it done if it kills me," Mr. Bouley told the Journal. "I’ve been trying to finish this idea through a lot of obstacles." (The chef insisted that his expansion plan will create synergies between the restaurants that will ultimately lower costs.) 

It should also be noted, that the last time Mr. Bouley planned an expansion in 2001 for several restaurants, a gourmet food store and a cooking school, his funding dissolved due to the effects of 9/11. 

Mr. Bouley’s plan is rather brave. Not only will his empire be based near the financial district, but other celebrity New York chefs have already admitted to an overall anxiety in the air. Several highly prized seats at Ko were reportedly empty last Monday and chef David Chang confessed to being depressed by the current state of affairs. The pork-belly chef even suggested we turn to vegetables! 

Meanwhile, Taavo Somer‘s and Ken Friedman‘s West Side dive The Rusty Knot has paired down its menu, and Icon at W Hotel has introduced recession-proof dining with a $66 six-course menu, according to Grub Street.

But Tom Colicchio, owner of Craft, Craftbar and the ‘Wichcraft sandwich shops stationed throughout the city, appears to belong to Mr. Bouley’s school of thought. This morning, Mr. Colicchio announced that he will open two more of the lower-priced Wichcrafts in Herald and Greeley Square Parks. 

Restaurateurs Biting the Recession Bullet, But David Bouley Soldiers On