Chefs Adam Bordonaro and Ryan Lory are offering something different to New York’s diners during the coronavirus crisis. They’ve developed a Doomsday Dinner Party, takeout service for guests, delivered by tuxedoed men in rabbit masks.
After working so hard to build their restaurant Ardyn, in Greenwich Village, New York, form the ground up, this should have been the period where the systems they put in place were bedding in and they were beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
"It took about a year and a half to get the funding, to find the right location because space on New York city is just crazy and we did all the demolition and a good part of the renovation ourselves," says Ryan lory on the phone from New York. "We knew what we wanted, we designed the dining room and the kitchen ourselves. It was our dream, we put out heart and soul into the place."
"Myself and Adam, we didn’t take a salary for the first year, it was just one of those sacrifices you make for your future. We don’t have a manager, we do everything ourselves. But we were just seeing all our hard work paying off. We had our busiest period in February, we were just about to pay ourselves for the first time and then this happened."
Luckily the chefs had heeded various warnings before the outbreak and had the foresight to prepare.
"Back in early March we started looking at what was happening in Seattle and we knew it wasn’t a matter of if it came here but when," says Lory. "So we started to prepare for the worst. We had to come up with something that would make us stand out from all the other restaurants that would be doing takeout. So we put our heads together and came up with Doomsday Dinner Party.
Their Doomsday Dinner Party costs $600 for four. Guests place their order 24 hours in advance, then when the time comes, they can tune into a special playlist, a meal kit arrives, delivered to the door by tuxedoed, rabbit mask-wearing men (Adam and Ryan themselves).
The meal kits include seven courses – the menu will be changed for spring next week – currently citrus-cured Hamachi, charred broccoli and 45-day dry-aged Wagyu ribeye from Snake River Farms. Detailed instructions are provided with chefs available by phone to talk diners through plating and preparation.
"It’s more than just a takeout order, it’s an interactive experience within the Ardyn world. We just didn’t want to cook a steak medium-rare and then send it out, so it would taste like garbage when it arrived at people’s homes."
The experience includes a playlist, YouTube videos and the chefs are on call to talk diners through the process of preparation and plating.
"The Doomsday Dinner Party gets the whole family involved, one working on the steak, the other on the house-made pasta, there’s a role for everyone to play. We tested it on ourselves first. We went to Adam’s parents’ house and had the meal kit delivered, prepared and plated it and it was just as good as you would get in our restaurant. We are quite proud of it."
Developing and launching a product like the Doomsday Dinner Party in a short timeframe and under pressure is no mean feat as any restaurateur who has recently made the pivot to takeout will know, but it helped that the chefs were used to adversity at Ardyn anyway.
"Ardyn is very much about the new American fine dining concept," says Lory. "We change the menu constantly according to the season, it has to be new and different. We have to challenge ourselves as much as possible, but we want to be fun. We create a whole new bar and cocktail menu every season, based on the changes. It meant we were already in an agile and creative headspace when it came to creating something new for the coronavirus."
This type of creative thinking points a way out of the crisis for the restaurants that survive it. The recovery will a slow process. It helps too, that Ardyn, already had a strong brand to work with, the chefs very much built the restaurant in the way that they wanted, so the Doomsday Dinner Party, allows them to deliver that experience to people's homes. Now they have plans to expand the experience to work on new elements.
"When we opened Ardyn, our aim was to get a Michelin star," says Lory.
Imagine if they became the first restaurant to gain a Michelin star for takeout?
A portion (15%) of the proceeds from the Doomsday Dinner Party goes to non-profit COCO Fund (Covid Community Fund), which the chefs created in partnership with the March On Foundation. The fund aims to assist those in the restaurant, event and hospitality industries, during the crisis.