In 2017, the same year Eleven Madison Park ranked No. 1 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, it closed its doors for a four-month renovation.
Now you can see what went on behind closed doors in a new documentary series.
“7 Days Out,” premiering Friday on Netflix, documents the week leading up to major cultural events, from the 144th Kentucky Derby to the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
One of the six episodes is devoted to the reopening of Eleven Madison Park on Oct. 8, 2017. Cameras follow as co-owners Daniel Humm and Will Guidara revamp the three-Michelin starred Manhattan restaurant, addressing problems both big (no gas) and small (softening down the banquette fabric) days before opening to the public.
“It’s one of my favorites from the bunch,” said executive producer Andrew Fried, who also is an executive producer and director of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table.”
amNewYork chatted with Fried about the episode.
How did you think of including Eleven Madison Park?
We knew we wanted to identify the largest cultural events of the calendar, be it in the worlds of sports, fashion, what have you. . . . [Will Guidara and Daniel Humm’s] story to me is a compelling one because of the nature of their partnership, because they are a restaurant run truly by two sides of the equation — Daniel who of course runs the kitchen, and Will who runs everything from a hospitality standpoint and front of house — and the way that those two elements balance each other in their case, I think, is truly unique. So I’ve always been interested in trying to find a way to tell their story. When I initially approached Will about this series, I didn’t know that Eleven Madison Park was actually scheduled to close. I approached him about the opening of the NoMad Hotel in Los Angeles. And he said, "Well sure, we could talk about that, but you know, we’re closing EMP and then we’re gutting it and then we’re going to be reopening it after the summer, and would you be interested in that?" I realized immediately that to be able to tell the story of the No. 1 restaurant in the world closing its doors, re-imagining itself, reinventing itself, and then the pressure of what it would be like to reopen with the stakes so high was a type of story we could only dream about.
It looks like you were given a lot of access, at all hours even. But were there any ground rules or considerations when it came to when you could film?
No, to be honest. Certainly in this episode, there are always production concerns of just how many hours in the day you can work your crew. But in terms of access, it was unfettered in terms of what we were able to film. I think there’s the responsibility of a filmmaker when you’re given that type of access to not just roll the camera on everything. You do need to start to distill: what is the story we’re telling and what’s interesting here? So that’s partially how you build up the trust with your subject, is when they realize that you’re not just filming everything, but you’re trying to focus on a specific story and track that story. Certainly once they allowed us to be capturing even anything within the dining room on opening night — “well we can’t have cameras on opening night in the restaurant” was their initial response — but once they understood that we needed some of that to pay off what we’d been doing, then we knew there weren’t really any restrictions at all. We were able to tell the story in its entirety.
Was there anything that made the episode that you are particularly looking forward to people seeing?
In a general sense, I’m just excited for people to see the level of detail and the level of commitment to excellence that is involved in pulling this off. I think it’s hard to truly understand what it takes to have a restaurant that performs at the level of Eleven Madison Park. Will likes to say that he and Daniel spend 95 percent of their time working on things that only 5 percent of the people will ever notice.
Was there any point in the shoot where you wondered: how are they going to pull this off?
We were concerned, at some point when they were having to do their food prep at the NoMad because they didn’t have gas at EMP, there were definitely some concerns along the way of, are they going to get gas, and is this restaurant going to be able to open in time? But I guess that’s just the restaurant business, right? We were naive. I’ve never seen the opening of a restaurant at that level.
For people who maybe once in their life will dine at EMP, or maybe never, they can get a glimpse of what goes into that.
That’s fully part of it. You are granted access into worlds that otherwise most people would never be able to be a part of. Whether it’s a meal at Eleven Madison Park on opening night or being in the paddock before the Kentucky Derby starts, there are rarefied situations that most people don’t get to experience. But our show takes you there and hopefully leaves you feeling like you’ve come pretty close to experiencing it.
‘7 Days Out’ is available Friday on Netflix.