This is not the time to be thinking of oneself, accolades, reviews. Much bigger picture here and larger issues at hand! Acadia and I are proud to be helping those workers on the front line, working tireless hours in hospitals, hotels, shelters, etc.. We are providing meals, gloves, and spare goods that may assist them through the countless hours of their day. They are relentless and so are we.
A big thank you to “Gloves4good,” “Frontlinefoods” “AAA” and “World Central Kitchen” for linking us up for those in need of our help. We may be small, but we have each other. That’s how we’ll win….
From Eater Chicago
Ryan McCaskey is chef and owner of two-Michelin star South Loop restaurant Acadia. He and his team are offering carryout meals during the dine-in closures.
“Support truly independent restaurants. A lot of us are real small with very thin margins. Every dollar counts, not only for our staff but for us to sustain and be open. I don’t have any ill will toward anybody else, but let’s sustain those people first. I think large restaurant groups should be paying their people for a few weeks — they have the funds and may be able to sustain better than the small guy making a fraction of that annually…I’ve been joking a lot, it’s like if the Yankees suddenly were asking everyone for money. The Yankees have a $200 million per year payroll. Support the [Milwaukee] Brewers instead. I think it’s really important to do that nowadays, especially if you want to see those restaurants around. If this goes on for more then a month, there’s going to be a lot of closings and that’s really scary, not only for Chicago, but also the whole fabric of the scene. Phil Foss, he’s got a little tiny place over there, and Thai Dang with a place in Pilsen — those kind of guys can hopefully make it out of this, but it makes me real nervous for those kind of establishments.”
From New City
Ryan McCaskey, Acadia
“Fine dining in Chicago has so many employees and so many steps of service, and I love that, and that’s what I always wanted. But things change.”
Ryan McCaskey is chef-proprietor at the Michelin-starred Acadia; he also owns a restaurant in Maine.
I thought we were going to reopen our Maine restaurant this year, but I had to dump everything we had into Acadia.
It’s been a roller coaster.
At first, all my staff are contacting me and freaking out. I was in Maine when all this broke, and I was getting calls that I needed to come back and sort things out. My staff looks at me to be the leader, some even call me dad, and I’ve helped these guys get apartments and open bank accounts, tried to go beyond just being an everyday boss. They always look to me to find a way, to find a solution and make it better.
I thought I was going to close Acadia forever, for good. Then I thought maybe we could do this carryout thing and see how things go. I had a number in mind, and I thought if we could just hit that number, we’d survive. We’ve quadrupled that number. It won’t keep us afloat forever—we’re not paying rent and we’re holding off on some bills—but it works temporarily.
We’ve launched our Free Market, and people are dropping off food. The Peninsula and the Marriott dropped off a ton of food. We also receive food from suppliers that have excess and want to keep everything rotating. We’re receiving product from farmers, and I’m also just buying stuff from them because they’re hurting, too. The people who come to the market are mostly industry people, but also, we’re slowly, cautiously letting in some of the neighborhood. If you’re walking down the alley and see the market and you’re like “Hey, can I come in and pack a bag?” I’m not going to say “No.”
My dad jokes with me that, “You have this carry-out business. Maybe you should keep doing that on the side.” I don’t know, but it’s something to look at, and it’s a valid business model.
If fine dining is crushed by this, I have other outlets. I like the idea of scaling down Acadia a bit and narrowing the focus. It costs us two million a year to run Acadia, and one-and-a-half million of that is labor, so if I could find a way to streamline it a little bit, that would be the model as we move into the future. Fine dining in Chicago has so many employees and so many steps of service, and I love that, and that’s what I always wanted. But things change.